Closing the gaps in social citizenship

With huge economic, social and climate challenges facing Europe, the issue of rising poverty levels, social exclusion and insufficient social protection must not be ignored.   

The EUROSHIP project is an important piece of this puzzle, helping to put a spotlight on many of the challenges being faced as well as the real impact that current policies are having on people’s lives.  

The research that has been gathered, analysed and presented to EU decision makers is invaluable to shaping the future of social policies. Consisting of statistical analysis, life-course interviews, consultations with EU stakeholders, evaluations of national policies and expert interviews at EU and national levels, the outcomes of EUROSHIP can make a real difference in identifying and tackling the gaps in current policies.  

At the heart of this research is the concept of social citizenship: the right to and actual possibility to live a decent quality of life. Gaps in social citizenship persist across Europe, limiting access to social protection and leaving people in vulnerable situations. As EUROSHIP findings show, the hardships of those living at-risk of poverty and social exclusion and those at risk of severe material deprivation are multifaceted and often difficult to exit. Certain groups are disproportionately affected by the prevalence of poverty, such as persons with disabilities, single parent households, women, young adults and older persons, people with lower education or longstanding health problems, people who are unemployed, migrants and ethnic minorities such as Roma.  

The EUROSHIP project’s research findings support the need for a stronger EU social agenda, which is also reflected in its policy recommendations. The following measures recommended by EUROSHIP are fundamental to addressing the policy gaps the project identified: a legally binding Directive on Adequate Minimum Income, better governance of Social Europe, policies to bridge digital divisions, improve data infrastructure and monitoring tools and tailored policies for long-term care. 

In almost all EU Member States the minimum income levels of out-of-work households across different household types do not reach the 60% national poverty threshold. Lifting minimum income levels to ensure a decent standard of living for all is undoubtedly a necessary step, and an EU framework directive is the only way to ensure this goal becomes a reality. Read more about this policy recommendation in this policy brief.

Earlier this year, a Eurobarometer found that 78% of Europeans believe that overall public spending on social policies should increase. At a time of huge financial burden and uncertainty for people across Europe, this figure reflects the need for better social governance that balances hard economic targets with the promotion of inclusive social policies in the EU.  Read more about this policy recommendation in this policy brief.

With the expansion of digitalisation of public service provisions across Europe, new layers of inequalities are being created. Bridging digital divisions means ensuring people have the skills and abilities to access and use these services, as well as addressing the social regulation of the labour market and the potential inequities arising from the digitalization of employment. Read more about this policy recommendation in this policy brief.

While findings from the EUROSHIP project are extremely valuable in gaining an accurate picture of poverty in the EU, there are still significant gaps in data coverage at the regional level, hindering comprehensive analysis and understanding of regional resilience and policy impact. To improve how the European Pillar of Social Rights is monitored and understand how best to protect the most vulnerable groups in society, the proposed European Social Rights Indicator (ESRI) must be implemented. Read more about this policy recommendation in this policy brief.

Finally, despite care services being fundamental in the functioning of our societies, there has been significant underinvestment in care in the last decade. With the introduction of the European Care Strategy, it will be important to ensure that reforms take a tailored approach, prioritising universalism, home- and community-based services, and the voice of stakeholders. Long-term care is a universal human need, and reforms should respect human rights principles. Read more about this policy recommendation in this policy brief.

With ambitious goals such as reducing the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 15 million by 2030, there is undoubtedly so much more work to be done.  If the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan is to be successfully implemented, then policies such as those recommended by EUROSHIP and the research it has presented must be taken seriously by decision-makers at all levels.