Building Social Europe 4/4 – Investing in people is not a cost!

It’s nearly twelve months since the European Commission released its first concrete proposals for a European Pillar of Social Rights, which aims to deliver new and improve existing social rights for people in the EU. As Social Platform we welcome the Pillar; it’s the right tool to bring about the necessary policy changes to address key trends, such as poverty and social exclusion, job precariousness and in-work poverty, and barriers to accessing social protection. However, its success hinges on the use of a comprehensive implementation approach encompassing policy, governance, funding and civil dialogue. In this series of four ‘Build Social Europe’ blogs I’ll take a look at each of these areas in turn, and layout Social Platform’s recommendations on how the EU institutions and Member States can turn the Pillar from words into action.

EU policy-makers and stakeholders don’t always agree, but on one thing supporters of social rights seem to have reached a consensus: successful implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights requires adequate financial support. With the next long-term EU budget (the multi-annual financial framework, or MFF) currently being negotiated it’s important to stress that investment in people, both at EU and national level, is key to making the Social Pillar a success.

One such example of how investment in people can be achieved at EU level is through social investment, including in high quality health, housing, social, employment and education services and social infrastructures. Promoting investment in services is not only about the amount of resources needed – it is also about the approach taken in their design and delivery. Services should be people-centred and tailored to meet each individual’s needs, and they should promote users’ human rights and aim to empower people and make them more independent. In addition to addressing present needs with immediate effect – such as improving people’s skills, health conditions and employability – investment in services can prevent or reduce future needs that would give rise to additional costs and reliance on services, including emergency health care, unemployment benefits, correctional facilities and income support. This is why social investment should be mainstreamed across instruments and headings in the next MFF, especially as social rights and social inclusion are relevant to a whole range of EU policies.

There’s also a big role to be played at national level, where post-crisis cuts to social expenditure have disproportionately affected people in vulnerable situations. Rather than cutting funding in areas that support people to live a life in dignity, Member States should instead look at reforming national tax systems and ending policies that allow tax avoidance and evasion by multinational companies and billionaires. Indeed, the European Commission estimates that corporate tax avoidance amounts to €50-70 billion per year, which could be spent instead on social systems and services.

As negotiations on the EU budget progress we will continue to closely monitor their outcome and potential impact on social rights and the Social Pillar. For more information on the current status of the European Social Fund+ draft proposal, please read this blog post.

Read more in Social Platform’s position, ‘Building Social Europe: A comprehensive implementation plan for an effective European Pillar of Social Rights’.