Social Justice Ireland recommendations
The scale of the task at hand is considerable, against the backdrop of a decade of uneven progress leading up to the current unprecedented crisis. However, if Europe is to succeed, a strong response based on the European Social Model is required. This means protecting people across the lifecycle, young and old, men and women, those with an income and those with no incomes. Those people were already in a difficult situation before the pandemic and were among the hardest hit. Now, they face rising inflation which is further eroding their standard of living. Unlike in 2008, they must be protected if Europe is to achieve a real and lasting social and economic recovery. In the wake of a devastating global pandemic and the outbreak of war and humanitarian crisis on the continent of Europe, it is now clearer than ever that alternatives are needed. We make the following recommendations aimed at EU Leaders and EU Institutions:
Ensure Greater Coherence of European Policy by acting on the von der Leyen Commission’s recent decision to integrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights into the economic processes of the European Semester. For example, the priorities of Annual Growth Surveys should provide greater focus on long-term social objectives, and on building adequate, effective social systems that include both investment and protection dimensions and are better aligned to the EU Social Investment Package and the new European Recovery Fund. This could be facilitated by:
- Making the European Pillar of Social Rights enforceable through legislative initiatives and turning it into a strategic tool to influence EU macroeconomic governance.
- Supporting efforts to promote growth and jobs while meeting deficit reduction targets in the medium rather than the short term.
- Taking greater account of social impacts when making Country Specific Recommendations, especially those requiring fiscal consolidation measures.
- Making country-specific recommendations that seek to achieve reductions in poverty and unemployment where rates are high or rising.
Address inappropriate EU governance structures that prohibit or inhibit legitimate investment by national government.
Advance proposals for a guarantee of an adequate minimum income or social floor in the EU under a framework directive, and for minimum standards on other social protection measures building upon the Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages. This should include access to child care, access to education and healthcare across member states and other measures supportive of the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Monitor and Address poverty amongst sub-groups such as children, young people, older people and working poor. Child poverty is such a serious issue that it requires further action as does the issue of young people neither in employed nor in education (NEETS). Monitor implementation of the Commission’s Recommendation on Investing in Children through a strengthened process and work with member states with high levels of child poverty to help them access and deploy structural funds to address the issue. The ageing of Europe’s population, the fact that there are many more women than men in this group, and the very great differentials between countries make poverty amongst older people (especially in some countries) an issue that requires more attention now and in the future. The situation of those who work and still live in poverty needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency.
Focus on Youth Unemployment: Youth unemployment continues to be a serious problem despite Youth Guarantee schemes and there is a need to recognise that young people experiencing multiple disadvantage are likely to need support over a lengthy period.
Support Developments in the Social Economy: Leadership and support from the EU for social initiatives would benefit both people in need of support (through health and social care programmes) and societies generally. This would be consistent with the Social Investment Package and could provide valuable employment opportunities for people who are long-term unemployed.
Improve Representation: EU policy-making must engage meaningfully with stakeholders representing poorer people and those most at risk of exclusion.
Structural Funds: Structural funds must be of a sufficient scale to make an impact and should be given greater priority so as to ensure significant progress is made in bridging the gap between the economic and social dimensions of policy and in promoting a social investment approach to public policies where this is absent or insufficient.
Adopt a Human Rights Strategy to prevent the violation of the human rights of Europe’s population. This is particularly pressing given the reality of conflict and humanitarian crisis has returned to the continent of Europe with the war in Ukraine.