EU 2020 Strategy Fail to Fight Poverty

The Europe 2020 strategy is the EU’s plan for growth and social well-being for the current decade. For the last ten years it focused on “Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive growth” led by advancements in five main areas: Employment, R&D and Innovation, Climate Change and Energy, Education, Poverty and Exclusion. These five factors are essential for strengthening the EU economy and prepare its structure for the challenges of the next decade.

The Europe 2020 strategy has set the target of’ lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty or social exclusion’ by 2020. To achieve this target, the EU’s agenda included actions stimulating education programs and new employment opportunities that would help Europeans in risk of poverty to develop new skill sets and find jobs that position them better in the society and allow them a better quality of living.

For the last ten years, poverty reduction has always been a key policy component and the Union has always set ambitious targets to tackle social concerns. However, the 2020 Strategy achieved next to nothing in regards to its anti-poverty goals. With 116.1 million people in risk of poverty in 2008, the EU-27 dedicated their efforts to reduce the number of poor Europeans to less than 96.1 million in 2020. Yet, as of 2017, the number of people at risk of poverty is at 113.0 million. It took nine years to lift 3.1 million people out of risk of poverty levels which means that 22.4 percent of the population in the EU remained at risk and a complete failure to tackle the problem in general.

Why the EU Strategy 2020 failed to fight Poverty?

  1. Employment: Insufficient Job Opportunities Especially in Rural Areas

The main tools the EU Strategy relayed on when fighting poverty were higher employment rates and more access to education. Eurostat research showed that employment is crucial for ensuring adequate living standards and it provides the necessary base for people to live a better life. The EU labor market has consistently shown positive dynamics, but the rates didn’t meet the Europe 2020 strategy’s employment rate target of 75 percent especially in the rural areas. Jobless young people in rural Europe make more than 30 percent of people in risk of poverty. The lack of new job openings and the limited career path demotivates people and lead to their exclusion of the society. People’s despair in that situation reflex in loss of motivation to even look for a job so it’s not a surprise that unemployment rates impact direct all aspects of life especially the risk of poverty and exclusion.

  1. Inadequate Local Governance and Application of EU Strategic Policies

According to a report from 2014, the EU anti-poverty strategy wasn’t working because it wasn’t applied correctly. There was no common definition of poverty across all twenty-seven member states. Therefore, the number of people in risk and their demographics vary critically across countries and policies don’t apply to all of them equally.  The Europe 2020 strategy has had low visibility and impact at the local level. This is deeply problematic, as it was recognized that the role of local governments and civil society is crucial for tackling poverty. Regional administrations and rural mayors often are the ones implementing policies to address poverty, but they lack preparedness and basic knowledge about how EU tools and strategies should work. As a result, EU-level objectives fail and that pointed to another issue in the system–the lack of EU monitoring on the effectiveness of regional operations.

Education: The Only Working Strategy Against Poverty

At this point, it is clear that the target of 20 million Europeans lifted out of risk of poverty by the end of 2020 is an illusion, but there is a strong hope that poverty can be addressed through education. Education and training lie at the heart of the Europe 2020 strategy and are seen as key drivers for prosperity and welfare. The EU’s educational targets are interlinked with all other Europe 2020 goals as higher educational attainment improves employability, which in turn reduces poverty. Given that the EU 2020 strategy did hit the target of reducing the rates of early education leavers to less than 10% and increasing the number of workers having completed tertiary education to at least 40 percent– that opens the possibility of downsizing the poverty risk through access to education.

Nowadays upper secondary education is considered the minimum desirable educational attainment level for EU citizens. A lack of secondary education presents a severe obstacle to economic growth and employment in an era of rapid technological progress, intense global competition and labor market demand for constantly increasing levels of skill. Europeans in risk of poverty profit the most of access to secondary education because this is the only to stay active part of the society and learn marketable skills. The longer young people from rural areas pursuit academic goals the better the chances are to get employed and have a better perspective for personal and professional development.

The EU Strategy failure to fight poverty this decade should not be discouraging, instead it should serve as a lesson to the future social policies. The Employment rates and local government work will always impact the poverty level depending on the area, but the universal access to Education is a tool that can impact poverty across the Union. Gaining new skills sets is one of the best ways to provide Europeans in risk of poverty with more development opportunities and perspectives for a better life.