In 2016, the European Commission (EC) issued Spain with a recommendation to improve cooperation between employment and social services in the framework of the European Semester. A recent European Commission event brought together representatives from European, national and regional level to discuss the implementation of this recommendation. The meeting focussed on:

  • Sharing good practices on the cooperation between employment and social services in Spain’s regions.
  • Exploring new opportunities for future cooperation and framing them with practice examples from across Europe.

Plenary sessions dedicated were to the role of the European Structural Funds and to the Pillar of Social Rights (see ESN’s position paper)  – which is presently under discussion – and took place alongside thematic working groups on beneficiaries’ rights and obligations, joint management and training, and integrated pathways. Alfonso Montero, who chaired the discussions of the working group on integrated pathways presented  practice examples of employment and social services coordination from our 2016 report ‘Integrated Social Services in Europe’ and how elements from these practices could be used to improve the coordination of social and employment services in the Spanish regions.

Lessons from across Europe

The degree to which employment and social services are integrated varies from country to country. For example, in Germany since 2005 employment services have followed a one-stop-shop approach whereby new joint agencies – the Jobcentres– are responsible for the administration and payment of benefits, placements, active labour market measures and social services (such as debt-, drug- and socio-psychological counselling as well as in-kind provisions for housing, heating and clothing). Few member states, except for Denmark, Finland and the UK show this level of integration, however.

Taking steps towards fully integrated employment and social services marks the right direction for the Spanish regions to address the EC’s recommendation and solve some of their labour market challenges. “A key challenge for the development of integrated pathways in the Spanish labour market is to ensure that the referral process for jobseekers to the right service is clear for all services involved, including employment, community-based services in local councils and specialist social services in the regions” argued Mr. Montero.


Improved cooperation between social and employment services is hinged upon better integrated and individualised person-centred active inclusion plans. In order to activate those furthest from the labour market, there must be a ‘whole-person’ approach which addresses not only their employment needs but also social, psychosocial and basic needs. For job retention and to address the professional skills gap, training and retraining must be offered to job seekers alongside support measures during and following work placements. These are some of the key lessons for? the Spanish regions.