Measuring social progress in EU regions

01-10-2018

The social dimension has long been present on the European Union agenda. Recently, it has gained greater significance, particularly in contexts such as the EU governance framework (the European Semester), and economic and monetary union, as well as the reflection process on the future of the EU. Initiatives to measure the EU's social situation and the social impact of EU policies have produced a number of indicators that complement the assessment of economic performance. These measurements can help present a more comprehensive picture of the state of European societies. The EU regional Social Progress Index provides an overview of aspects including health, access to education, environmental quality, housing, personal rights and inclusion. The 2016 findings give a mixed picture of social progress across EU regions. Generally, Nordic and Dutch regions figure among the top performers, with southern and eastern regions lagging behind. However, the picture becomes more nuanced when specific dimensions of social progress are taken into account. The index also shows that social progress scores do not always correlate with a region's GDP. Improving social progress is also relevant to EU cohesion policy, one of the goals of which is to achieve social, economic and territorial cohesion, while also reducing regional disparities. Regional investments can therefore be geared to support both economic performance and social progress. The role and application of new indicators and indexes in this process is currently being explored with a view to establishing how they can be used in policy to support real change, for instance by monitoring developments, identifying priorities, and evaluating progress. This is an updated edition of a briefing published in November 2017.

The social dimension has long been present on the European Union agenda. Recently, it has gained greater significance, particularly in contexts such as the EU governance framework (the European Semester), and economic and monetary union, as well as the reflection process on the future of the EU. Initiatives to measure the EU's social situation and the social impact of EU policies have produced a number of indicators that complement the assessment of economic performance. These measurements can help present a more comprehensive picture of the state of European societies. The EU regional Social Progress Index provides an overview of aspects including health, access to education, environmental quality, housing, personal rights and inclusion. The 2016 findings give a mixed picture of social progress across EU regions. Generally, Nordic and Dutch regions figure among the top performers, with southern and eastern regions lagging behind. However, the picture becomes more nuanced when specific dimensions of social progress are taken into account. The index also shows that social progress scores do not always correlate with a region's GDP. Improving social progress is also relevant to EU cohesion policy, one of the goals of which is to achieve social, economic and territorial cohesion, while also reducing regional disparities. Regional investments can therefore be geared to support both economic performance and social progress. The role and application of new indicators and indexes in this process is currently being explored with a view to establishing how they can be used in policy to support real change, for instance by monitoring developments, identifying priorities, and evaluating progress. This is an updated edition of a briefing published in November 2017.