Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs

The role of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) is to improve citizens’ living standard and quality of life. This is achieved primarily by means of quality jobs and a high degree of social protection, the protection of health and consumer interests and the safeguarding of equal opportunities for all citizens of the European Union.

The Council is composed of ministers responsible for employment, social policy, consumer protection, health and equal opportunities. They meet approximately four times a year.

The main responsibility for employment and social policy remains in the hands of the Member States. At European level, national policies are supported via the following instruments:

  • European legislation regulates the minimum social standards and fundamental rights specifically in the following areas: equality between women and men, non-discrimination, free movement of workers, health and safety at work, labour law and working conditions.
  • Through its open method of coordination, the Council sets common objectives and priorities, analyses measures adopted at national level and submits recommendations to Member States. An essential part of the open method of coordination is the exchange of information, experience and examples of best practice. The Employment Committee (EMCO) and Social Protection Committee (SPC) serve as platforms for discussions on these issues between the Member States.
  • The European Social Fund is an instrument to finance employment and social protection policy measures at national level.

In its employment policy, the European Union wants to achieve full employment, enhance labour quality and productivity, enhance work attractiveness and ensure that work is attractive for job-seekers, including those who are underprivileged and/or inactive. The EU is also keen to improve adaptation to labour market needs, increase and improve the effectiveness of investments in human capital and adapt the education and vocational training system to new skill needs.

Other important factors are the integration of gender equality into all aspects of employment quality, improvements in the provision and quality of services that help both men and women reconcile work and private life and the creation of more and better jobs in order to encourage the same level of economic independence.

The future direction of the European social policy was outlined by the European Commission in July 2008, when it adopted the Renewed Social Agenda, the goal of which is to modernise the EU’s social policy so that it responds to the needs of the 21st century. The Renewed Social Agenda is a set of legislative and non-legislative initiatives in the social field that are now being discussed by the bodies of the Council.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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