Policy Study


After enduring decades of neoliberal policymaking that advocated for a small state and promoted the market as the primary instrument for efficiently allocating jobs and resources, the welfare state must undergo significant revitalisation, facilitated by the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR).

Understanding the EPSR’s impact on equal opportunities, working conditions, and social protection and inclusion is central to addressing the critical socio-economic challenges and the ‘new social risks’.

Given the redesign of the EU economic governance, the start of a new legislature in Brussels in 2024, the upcoming EPSR Action Plan review of 2025, the context of the war in Ukraine, the ‘cost-of-living’ crisis, the green and digital transitions, and the splintering of the political landscape, the EPSR and its role as a compass and counter-crisis narrative has never been more important. However, the emphasis on the EPSR and the implementation of its 20 thematic principles is not guaranteed to remain in place. 

Additionally, addressing the diverse needs of Member States and ensuring effective coordination between national and EU-level initiatives is essential for successfully implementing the Pillar’s objectives, which requires further measures, continuous monitoring, robust enforcement mechanisms, and adequate financial resources. 

This policy study offers an analysis of the EU’s progress in advancing equal opportunities, improving working conditions and strengthening social protection and inclusion as envisioned by the EPSR, both at the national and European levels. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of social partners and civil society organisations’ insights in shaping effective policies and decisions through a “Shadow Social Agenda” for the next legislature. The authors identify key areas requiring intervention, such as education, employment, health and care along the life cycle, and social protection, and highlight new ones where reflection is necessary.

This publication was launched at an event that took place on February 12th.

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