The EPSR comprises 20 core principles based around 3 topics: 

  • Equal opportunities and access to the labour market
  • Fair working conditions
  • Social protection and inclusion

Demonstrating significant support and further opportunity for concrete action, on the 17 November the EPSR will be proclaimed by the three legislative bodies of the EU, the Council, the Commission and the Parliament.

ESN’s December 2016 Position Paper

ESN’s Position Paper highlighted the potential ways in which EPSR could be useful and outlined areas for further development. ESN welcomed the Pillar but hoped to increase its reach and impact on all of society. ESN encouraged a connection between the rights put forward in the Pillar and the local level and called for the social protection principles of the EPSR to connect with statutory duties at local level. In this way, communities would feel EPSR was relevant to them. ESN also stressed the need to focus not only on employment but on society as a whole and argued that rights should not be tied to employment but held by all individuals. 

The position paper concluded noting that for ESN, whose members largely work in local communities across Europe, the success of this social and societal instrument depends on the European Union reaching out to all citizens. This is a sentiment that remains particularly relevant as we see the EPSR gain endorsement. ESN also questioned the extent to which the provisions contained in the EPSR relate to a legislative or a benchmarking agenda. ESN later pressed this issue by pointing out that as things stand now, the EPSR remains a set of principles rather an actual obligation to deliver or guarantee specific rights.

Building the next layer

In order to meet some of the goals of the Social Pillar, a package on work-life balance has been proposed by European Commission. Staff working documents assessing progress on implementation of the European Commission Recommendations on active inclusion and investing in children have also been issued. The work-life balance package recommends some valuable steps forward on gender equality and parental leave as well as for informal carers rights. Whilst a positive step forward, the package needs to be more concrete to achieve the maximum desired results.

Measuring impact

Implementation of the EPSR will be analysed using the Social-scoreboard. The scoreboard records progress in social issues across the EU Member States. This information is also incorporated into the European Semester policy cycle. ESN has previously suggested that the social-scoreboard could be more ambitious by, for example, breaking down data not only by gender but also by age, disability, and household composition to account for a range of vulnerabilities when measuring living conditions.

The EPSR and the European Semester

As ESN has discovered through its work on the European semester, elements from the EPSR will largely be put in place through the Semester. As the EPSR has now gained further support, its role within the European Semester will be reinforced, underlining the importance of ESN’s involvement in the Semester sharing the views of local public social services.

The EPSR represents a significant opportunity to elevate social issues, and to socialise the European Semester which would allow for more meaningful recommendations in the future. ESN supports the Ministers’ decision to endorse the EPSR. We will continue to analyse and stay abreast of initiatives put in place in response to the EPSR.