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Wellbeing and skills: the foundation of inclusive growth

Although Europe’s economy has been expanding and employment increasing, the shortage of skilled labour is a serious challenge. The EU’s social policies are key to increasing the availability of skilled workers in the single market.

This will also benefit those who are outside the labour market, since increases in the employment rate contribute to strengthening the financial base and stability of the welfare state. The Finnish Presidency stresses that one of the main goals of the EU is to promote the wellbeing of its citizens. The aim should be to make European education, training and research the best in the world.

Finland’s Presidency aims to

  • increase the availability of skilled labour and the mobility of workers 
  • promote continuous learning by devising a strategy for it
  • strengthen the Erasmus programme by promoting training, skills and mobility
  • discuss a networked European ‘super-university’ model
  • work towards achieving an ‘economy of wellbeing’, meaning a new approach to how people’s wellbeing enhances productivity and generates economic growth
  • strengthen gender equality in working life, and
  • support the social inclusion of young people.

General background: EU’s role in employment and social policy is limited

The goal of the EU’s employment and social policy is to improve people’s standard of living and quality of life. The EU aims to increase employment, improve living and working conditions, and ensure that member states take care of their citizens’ health. 

The main responsibility for employment and social policy, however, rests with the member states. The EU’s role is to set common targets for all member states, to evaluate actions carried out at national level, and to share information on best practices and issue recommendations to member states. To date, the only legislation that the EU has adopted in this field concerns minimum standards and minimum rights. 

Three milestones in the history of the EU’s employment and social policy: 

  1. The European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission jointly proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights at the Gothenburg Summit in November 2017. The Pillar presents 20 key principles and rights that support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. 
  2. The European Council adopted the Europe 2020 strategy for jobs and growth in June 2010. Its goals include boosting employment and education and combating poverty and social exclusion. 
  3. The first legal provisions on coordinating the member states’ social protection systems go back to 1957 and the Treaty of Rome. 

Read more about important topics during Finland’s Presidency 

EU2019FI-backgrounder: Economy of wellbeing in the EU

EU2019FI-backgrounder: EU’s gender equality policy for the future

Read more about EU employment and social policy

Council of the EU: Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council configuration (EPSCO)

European Union: Employment and social affairs