The social dimension of the ENP includes dialogue in the field of socioeconomic development, employment, social policy and structural reforms. It aims to help neighbourhood partner countries to:
- reduce poverty,
- create employment,
- promote core labour standards and social dialogue,
- reduce regional disparities,
- improve working conditions,
- enhance the effectiveness of social assistance and
- reform national welfare systems.
The European Commission’s Sectoral Progress Report 2007 of the ENP concludes that “much remains to be done in the field of employment and social development” in the neighbourhood countries. While situations greatly differ from country to country, social reform and development present major challenges everywhere.
The fight against poverty and unemployment, including youth unemployment, is a common challenge throughout the ENP region. Grey economy is widespread in many countries, putting workers in vulnerable situations without social rights and social protection. Child labour is commonplace in many countries. At the same time, several countries face a lack of qualified workers, as education and training systems do not match labour market needs. Demographic change, including the rapidly increasing young workforce in the South, coupled with demographic ageing in some Eastern partner countries, adds to the challenge. All countries have engaged in reforms to remedy these problems.
Significant efforts are needed in order to implement effective labour market policies and to promote decent working conditions. The ENP aims to promote productive employment, rights at work, social protection, social dialogue and equal opportunities for men and women. Social protection is still poorly developed in several partner countries. The social inclusion of vulnerable groups needs to be addressed.
Social dialogue needs to be strengthened across the ENP region. Regarding core labour rights, the ratification and implementation of ILO conventions remains problematic in a number of partner countries. Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco have yet to ratify ILO fundamental conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining.
All ENP partners have undertaken measures to enhance women’s participation in political, social and economic life and to promote equal rights for men and women. The European Commission assesses, however, that these measures – a key to societal modernisation – have not yet led to any significant improvement on the ground. Discrimination against women and domestic violence are still widespread.