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European and international social policy

The activities of the Ministry of Social Affairs in the field of social policy at European and international levels.

The Ministry of Social Affairs is not only active in Austria, but is also represented in international organisations and at EU level.
These include:

In these organisations and their committees, the main issues are cooperation on social policy and the involvement in drawing up documents and making decisions. Alongside this there are also separate social policy arrangements with individual countries (bilateral issues).

Social policy in the EU

All of the Member States of the EU have very different social systems which have developed throughout history. The main responsibility for social policy is therefore still in the hands of the Member States themselves. Important tasks of the EU are EU legislation (directives and regulations) and the judicature (European Court). The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Protection Council (EPSCO) is one of the ten specialist councils at EU level. It pursues the goal of improving the standard of living and quality of life of the population, particularly via high-quality jobs and high standards of social, health and consumer protection. The EPSCO Council is made up of the ministers of all the EU Member States who are responsible for these policy areas.

Europe 2020 strategy

The Europe 2020 strategy is designed to promote growth and employment in the European Union. The Heads of State and Governments have adopted five strategic targets in the fields of employment, research and development, climate change and energy, as well as combating poverty and social exclusion. The targets are to be achieved by 2020. Two of the goals – increasing the employment rate among those aged between 20 and 64 to 75 percent and reducing the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion by 20 million – are of special significance for the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Member States establish national goals for the implementation of the joint European targets, and draw up progress reports within the framework of their annual national reform programmes. The monitoring and implementation of the strategy take place in the context of the European Semester. As part of the Europe 2020 strategy, the European platform against poverty and social exclusion has the task of helping the EU countries to reach the poverty goal. For the realisation of the strategy’s goals in Austria, the Ministry of Social Affairs has established the Austrian platform for combating poverty and social exclusion.

Open method of coordination

Within the framework of the open method of coordination in the field of social affairs (OMC social affairs) the Member States report on new national developments and reforms which have been incorporated into law. The Social OMC is a voluntary process of the coordination of European policy and increased cooperation in social policy in fields where the EU has limited or no competences (social protection and social inclusion, the provision of retirement income, and health and long-term care). An important element of the OMC is learning from each other, which means that the Member States exchange experiences and tried and tested procedures. The most important body for this cooperation is the Social Protection Committee. Thanks to the Social OMC, social protection policy has become an important element of the European agenda.

European Pillar of Social Rights

The European Pillar of Social Rights is a catalogue of essential principles of employment and social policy. The European Parliament, the Commission and the Council adopted the European Pillar of Social Rights in the form of an institutional proclamation in November 2017. It covers a total of 20 subject areas which are sub-divided into three main areas: equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions, and social protection and inclusion. Within the framework of the European Semester, the priorities of the pillar are taken into account and their implementation is supported.

International social policy

Bilateral issues

Bilateral activities serve to benefit the exchange of information with different countries worldwide. They include the organisation of bi- and multilateral expert seminars, visits by ministers, the conclusion of bilateral treaties and agreements, and bilateral working groups in the field of social affairs.   Bilateral declarations of intent on cooperation in the field of employment and social issues have been made with China, Macedonia, Serbia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Within the framework of the Mixed Commission for Trade and Business between the Russian Federation and Austria, a bilateral working group on cooperation in the field of social issues between Russia and Austria has been created which has led to an extensive exchange of experiences in the employment and social sectors in recent years. Until now, the main focuses have been questions of combating poverty, policy for and with senior citizens, active ageing, long-term care, policy for people with disabilities, social services, the labour market and employment law.

A total of three social attachés from the Ministry of Social Affairs work in the countries of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia (supported from Vienna), and in Moldova and the Russian Federation (one official covering both countries), where they support local authorities, social institutions and NGOs in the establishment of European social standards.

OECD – Attaché of the Ministry of Social Affairs

The goal of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is to promote policies which improve people’s lives worldwide in an economic and social sense. In cooperation between the Member States and the OECD, solutions to joint problems are sought, and  the factors which are changing the economy, society or the environment are investigated. A social attaché has been working there for the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection since 2014. 

United Nations - international social policy

The United Nations plays a significant role in the creation and implementation of international social policy. The organisation has 193 member states, and its headquarters are in New York City

Its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Committee for Social Development (CSocD) are the main bodies of the UN in terms of social policy. In September 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in New York. They cover three dimensions: the economy, the environment and social affairs. The idea behind these goals is to promote sustainable development and to end poverty in the world by 2030.

An overview of the SGDs

  1. Combating poverty
  2. Combating hunger, promoting food safety and healthy nutrition
  3. Health and the structure of the world population
  4. Education and lifelong learning
  5. Gender equality and the strengthening of the position of women
  6. Water management and sanitary systems
  7. Access to energy
  8. Economic growth, productive work carried out in decent conditions
  9. Infrastructure, industrialisation and innovation
  10. Elimination of inequality in and between countries
  11. Sustainable cities and inclusive, safe housing
  12. Sustainable consumption and production
  13. Combating climate change
  14. The protection and sustainable use of seas, rivers and lakes
  15. The protection and restoration of the ecosystems and biodiversity
  16. The promotion of peaceful societies, access to justice, and inclusive institutions
  17. The means to realise the goals and a global partnership.

The realisation of the SDGs in Austria

The realisation of the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030 is being supported by all Austrian ministries in their respective sphere of responsibility (PDF, 2 MB). In summer 2020, Austria will report on the implementation of the SDGs in Austria at the United Nations. The national implementation report is currently being drawn up.

Last update: 2 January 2020