On 24 April, the European Commission held the Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth. It brought together policy makers and civil society to discuss what the EU can do to ensure that all citizens reap the benefits of truly inclusive growth. This year, the one-day event focused on the social inclusion of young people and the solutions that exist for them to reach their full potential. An implicit focus of the event was the European Pillar of Social Rights, which was on everyone’s minds two days ahead of the proposal.
The event was opened by Commissioner Thyssen who noted that “the crisis hit European people hard. Inequalities have been increasing to the point that the income of the richest 20% of citizens is five times higher than that of the poorest 20%. But fighting inequalities is one of the strongest priorities of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Access to social protection is needed to enable a wide safety net to catch people as they transit through jobs and changes in their life cycle. In the future the EU should be truly inclusive for all people.”
The Minister of Education of Malta, Mr. Evarist Bartolo said: “We cannot continue business as usual. We must come up with new solutions. We need to put humanity before economies. The European social model is at risk if democratic politics cannot engage with people who feel forgotten and abandoned. We cannot afford leaving anyone behind. We need to think of a society and economy that works for all people.”
MEP Maria João Rodrigues spoke during the panel debate and highlighted that “social investment has been decreasing due to the crisis. But we need to have the means for social investment to support people. The European Pillar of Social Rights needs to be strong and credible by providing the measures people need to cope with extreme situations.”
EUROCITIES was represented at the event by representatives from three different cities and two members of EUROCITIES secretariat:
- Loes Verhaeghe from Ghent presented the WIJ project in workshop 1 and showed how a Youth Guarantee project implemented at local level can open up quality pathways for young people.
- Jean-Jacques Derrien from Nantes took part in workshop 2 and explained how his city is investing in children and families to break the cycle of disadvantage and how childcare is being rethought in order to lift barriers to employment.
- Ciara Drohan from the EUROCITIES secretariat participated in the discussions in workshop 3 on intergenerational fairness and combatting youth poverty.
- Paco Ramos from Barcelona Activa presented his city’s labour market insertion scheme for young people to workshop 4 that discussed ways to address social inclusion challenges for young people in urban areas. Bianca Faragau, policy advisor at EUROCITIES, took the role of rapporteur in this workshop.
Throughout the event and especially in the workshop dedicated to urban areas, EUROCITIES voiced three key messages on behalf of the major cities in Europe. These messages, reported as outcomes of the workshop on urban areas, were:
- Local authorities do a great job working with young people. EU institutions and national governments should listen to them, acknowledge their role and support further their work with young people.
- Policies and services need to be integrated to support youth in all their life transitions (e.g.from youth to adulthood, from education to employment).
- Funding matters. It should be available, accessible and sustainable!
EUROCITIES welcomes the decision of the European Commission (DG Employment) to include a focus on urban areas and calls for strengthening this focus at next year’s convention. While poverty and inequalities are increasing in major cities in Europe, the EU needs to work together with city authorities and build on their successes at local level.