Social Investment Package announced for February 20

The European Commission has announced that on February 20, a Communication on a "Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion" (SIP) will be presented.

It is said that the initiative will aim to help member states to use their social budgets more efficiently and more effectively by promoting best practices and providing guidance on social investment. In the Commission's view, social investment helps to 'prepare' people to confront life's risks, rather than simply 'repairing' the consequences. According to the Commission, this means that member states need to put a greater focus on policies which yield high returns throughout people's lifetimes such as childcare, education, training, active labour market policies, housing support, rehabilitation and health services

It was announced that to ensure implementation of the package, the Commission would review member states' performance on the basis of the employment and poverty targets of the Europe2020 strategy and social protection reform. This would be based partly on a number of specific criteria that member states have agreed should be included in a Social Protection Performance Monitor. The Commission would give further policy guidance, inter alia on the basis of strengthened input from relevant stakeholders, in the Country Specific Recommendations in the framework of the European Semester.

For the Commission, the recommendation has to be seen against the background of the economic and financial crisis, as member states are facing the contradictory challenges of a "social emergency" – increasing poverty and inequalities and record unemployment – combined with cuts in public spending. To the Commission's assessment, under-investment in social policies now will result in greater costs in the future. Targeted social spending to improve the individual's chances throughout his/her life of integrating better into the labour market and society benefits the individual's prosperity, boosts the economy and helps to reduce higher social spending in the future stages of life.