The Lifelong Learning Platform welcomes the emphasis given to education and lifelong learning in the newly presented recommendation of the European Commission for a Pillar of Social Rights. After more than a year of negotiations, the Commission has put forward a set of applicable principles to scale up social inclusion and step up social progress.
The Lifelong Learning Platform and its members have participated extensively in the consultations with EC officials and have communicated the needs of NGOs in terms of inclusiveness. Civil society organisations, national associations and trade unions alike have participated as well, claiming that a framework for social development would ensure equal opportunities throughout the whole continent. It is refreshing to see that – after common efforts – social rights and more generally social issues are back on the agenda of the Commission, after several years of sole focus on the economic perspectives for growth. The Pillar will comprise 20 principles, structured in three main chapters:
- Equal opportunities and access to labour market
- Fair working conditions
- Social protection and inclusion
The Communication, published along, explains more in detail the rationale behind. The recommendation puts education and lifelong learning as the first of the 20 main points of action, under equal opportunities and access to the labour market:
“Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and life-long learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market.”
This is a holistic definition that LLLP very much welcomes. Education is also covered in the point 11, and in particular the right to affordable and quality early childhood education and care. Finally, but equally importantly, the need for a social dialogue and involving workers and social partners in decision-making processes is mentioned in the point 8, among many other important points.
We consider that “this Pillar steers the EC path back to a right-based approach, a fundamental turn in order to counter social exclusion and discrimination”, says David López, President of the Lifelong Learning Platform. “Education is the most powerful force for social change, and its role should not be confined to the access for individuals to the labour market”, David López added. However, we must not soften our commitment to improving social inclusion in Europe. The Pillar presents a number of questions, especially related to the enforceability of its principles. We would encourage the Commission to make them workable, thus preventing the Pillar to remain a void statement without practical outcomes. Also, we will insist on the importance of public investments as strengthening factors in education and lifelong learning, as well as in putting education front and central in the eyes of the decision-makers.
Building on the positives, the Lifelong Learning Platform overall welcomes the proposal for the Pillar of Social Rights, and will continue stimulating the Commission to fight inequalities and push social progress. For our Europe shall be a social Europe, or shall not be at all.