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EESC President Georges Dassis

Almost ten years after the start of the economic and financial crisis, and despite positive signs in several Member States, the EU is still struggling with high unemployment. Despite recent improvements, 8.6 % of the active population - almost 21 million people – were out of work in 2016. 


Several forms of unemployment need tackling as a priority. Long-term unemployment accounts for almost 50 % of the total and leads to skill depreciation, reduced labour market attachment and higher risk of social exclusion. Youth unemployment is another pressing problem, standing at over 19 % in 2016. Women, particularly mothers and others with caring responsibilities, remain under-represented in the workforce.


Numbers of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU rose from 116 million in 2008 to nearly 118 million in 2016. Unemployment is one of the main causes, as work usually enables people to participate fully in society, build social networks and fulfil their potential. This must also be seen together with our efforts to manage the migration situation.


Where we should look for opportunities, technological development, demographic change, globalisation and new production patterns tend to encourage social dumping, workforce exploitation, the rise of ideologies that reject solidarity and the erosion of gains made by the European social model. Good, stable, full-time jobs are lost, to be replaced by various types of work which are irregular, precarious or so badly paid that they don’t even offer a way out of poverty. Unfortunately, the working poor is a concept we cannot ignore in Europe.


Against this background, the European Economic and Social Committee’s 2017 Civil Society Prize rewards projects that promote quality jobs and entrepreneurship. The projects focus on young people, migrants and others finding it hard to get onto the labour market.


It is a great pleasure and a privilege to present this prize to the winners. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them but also to pay a well-deserved tribute to all individuals and civil society organisations whose hard work and commitment to making people’s lives better is an example to everyone. Only five were prize winners this year but looking at the many excellent proposals we received, European society wins through civil society engagement.


EESC President Georges Dassis

New publications

Civil Society Prize brochure

Civil Society Prize brochure

The EESC has published a brochure showcasing the five winning projects and providing background information about the Civil Society Prize in general.

The brochure can be downloaded at: http://www.eesc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/files/qe-06-17-355-en-n.pdf


Discovering hands from Germany wins first prize in EESC 2017 Civil Society Prize

Discovering hands

Initiatives from Greece, Belgium, Italy and Spain are awarded the other prizes

The German project Discovering hands, which trains blind and visually impaired women to use their superior tactile sense to improve early breast cancer detection, was awarded EUR 14 000. The four other initiatives from Greece, Belgium, Italy and Spain were awarded EUR 9 000 each.

The EESC's Civil Society Prize – Fact and figures

The Civil Society Prize, launched in 2006, is awarded for “excellence in civil society initiatives”. Each year, the prize covers a different aspect of the EESC’s activities and is open to all civil society organisations officially registered within the European Union as well as to individuals.

The EESC prize will help to open many new doors, says first prize winner Discovering Hands

Discovering hands

With the company poised to go international, CEO Frank Hoffmann says the award will be used to train new instructors.

Now we have the credentials to win the private sector's support and set off a chain reaction, says REvive Greece


Combining charity with a service which meets the needs of ICT companies and market demand for IT skills will help REvive Greece become both sustainable and scalable, says managing director Theodore Dimakarakos.

DUO for a JOB: It is high time to act so that everyone can find their rightful place in our societies through work

Duo for a job_1

There is still a wide gap in European cities between people with a migrant background and locals when it comes to accessing the job market, says Emmanuelle Ghislain, communication and fundraising coordinator at Belgium's DUO for a JOB, announcing that the prize money will contribute to the launch of a new branch in Paris.

The Civil Society Prize will be our launch pad to Europe, says Progetto Quid

Progetto Quid_1

The Verona-based social economy enterprise plans to use the Civil Society Prize to buy more sophisticated machines, recruit more disadvantaged people, develop more advanced skills and expand beyond Italy's borders. Giulia Houston, in charge of institutional relations, says the key to success is being able to rely on strong local networks.

Laundry ID: Innovation must come from the real needs of dependent individuals

Laundry ID_1

Spain's Institute of Robotics for Dependency (IRD), which launched the Laundry ID project, hopes that the Prize will help ensure that people with disabilities and their carers can make the most of what robotics and assistive technology have to offer, in order to become actively involved in the labour market.