Despite widespread political misrepresentation, social policies are vital to competitiveness and are a crucial investment for the future. However, we are still far from a Europe “dedicated to being triple-A on social issues”, as stated by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the beginning of his mandate, with widening inequalities and social imbalances across the continent.
We discussed these issues with Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy, who took part in our ‘State of Europe’ high-level roundtable. In the final weeks of the Luxembourg Presidency, it is an opportunity to review the progress made on the deepening of the EU social dimension – one of the seven priorities of the six-month presidency.
The last Standard Eurobarometer shows that unemployment is one of the top concerns of European citizens. The youth are the most affected by unemployment with more than 4.5 million young people unemployed in the EU (EC, Aug. 2015). As the ongoing refugee and security crises hit the headlines, it is fair to wonder whether youth unemployment is still at the forefront of the EU agenda.
The issue of youth unemployment is fully addressed in our report Europe’s jobs policy shake-up, which follows up on our high-level conference on youth unemployment with Marianne Thyssen, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility in June 2015.
Is youth unemployment still high on the EU agenda?
Social policies need to be considered as an asset to prosperity and cohesion and not as a burden on our economies. It’s now time for Europe to address the widening inequalities and social imbalances that weaken its economic performance and its socio-political stability. There is no single recipe to do so, but measures can be taken to address tensions between generations and enhance trust on issues such as migration.
For further reading, the final report of our High-Level Group on ‘Social Union’ Unequal Europe: Recommendations for a more caring EU outlines a series of recommendations to tackle social inequalities in Europe. This group was chaired by Frank Vandenbroucke, former Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Trustee of Friends of Europe.
How can widening social differences be reduced across the European Union?
This interview follows on from the participation of Nicolas Schmit as an introductory discussant at our ‘State of Europe’ high-level roundtable – our annual large-scale brainstorm on the challenges that will shape Europe’s future. It is part of Friends of Europe’s Quality Europe pillar.