New EU economic cycle offers opportunities for greater social investment
Eurochild welcomes the recognition of social priorities in the new annual cycle of policy guidance launched under the umbrella of the EU Semester for 2018. The Annual Growth Survey released last week, shows first signs of the European Pillar of Social Rights being integrated into economic policy coordination across EU member states. It remains to be seen how recommendations for social policy reforms will be supported with tools, funding and coherent guidance.
“With the endorsement of the European Pillar of Social Rights, we expect that economic policies are better connected to the needs of people and society. The pressure is high on EU and Member States to reflect that in the 2018 Semester. As child poverty continues to remain unacceptably high in the EU, we will be monitoring progress on protecting children in particular from disadvantaged backgrounds and providing access to quality early childhood education and care – one of the 20 principles in the Pillar”, said Jana Hainsworth, Secretary General, Eurochild.
In 2016, the risk of poverty among children (age 0-17) stood at 26.4%, down from 27.1% in 2015. The risk of child poverty is particularly high in Romania (49.2%), Bulgaria (45.6%) and Greece (37.5%), while Finland and Denmark report the lowest levels, below 15%.
Whilst the stronger links to the new social agenda are welcome, it is disappointing that the “life-cycle approach”, which promotes investment in people from an early age throughout their life is missing. Reference to social investment is still only limited to “working lives”, failing to see members of our societies as more than human resources on the labour market.
The new annual cycle of economic policy has also launched a ‘Social scoreboard’ to compare and contrast Member States’ performance on certain headline indicators. The scoreboard measures performance of EU Member States ranging from income inequality; the risk of poverty or social exclusion; young people not in education, employment or training; the impact of social transfers on poverty reduction; to the number of children aged less than 3 years in formal childcare.
Eurochild believes that this social scoreboard must be given equal weight to the macroeconomic scoreboard to encourage EU countries to design more child-centred investment policies. “While the social scoreboard does not cover all aspects relevant to tackling child poverty, it can nonetheless, incentivise EU countries to invest more in making quality services accessible and affordable for all, including childcare and housing, and providing minimum income and work-life balance”, added Jana Hainsworth.
On 22 November the European Commission launched the 2018 European Semester by publishing priorities for national policies to promote growth, job creation, social inclusion and protection in the Annual Growth Survey.
The Annual Growth Survey (AGS) gives policy guidance to Member States for 2018 around 3 dimensions: investment, structural reforms, and fiscal consolidation. It represents the start of the annual cycle of economic policy coordination across the EU.
Eurochild publishes a yearly report on the European Semester based on national developments reported by its members, and a set of alternative recommendations for the following year. Read the 2016 report on the European Semester featuring 20 country profiles online.