The EU has 25 million unemployed people and 122 million people at risk of poverty or social exclusion. These figures call for more economic convergence to improve the lives of Europe's citizens. While inclusive and active labour market policies are crucial to move people into decent jobs, fair and efficient welfare systems are decisive in ensuring social protection for all and the social inclusion of those still excluded from society.
Social affairs covers decent jobs, social security, protection and inclusion, poverty reduction, gender equality, people with disabilities, the needs of children and families, young people, older people and minorities such as Roma, access to health, justice, education, culture and sport, volunteering and active citizenship. Its main focus, common to all subareas, is to put people on an equal footing at the centre of social policy and its main political instrument at the EU level is the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Closely related themes are employment, education and training, migration and asylum, and fundamental and citizens' rights, which are also mainly covered by the Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC). The SOC section's Labour Market Observatory specifically monitors challenges affecting Europe's workforce and labour market. The permanent study groups on disability rights and on the inclusion of the Roma deal with these specific concerns. Moreover, with its opinions in this area, the EESC has established a considerable social acquis.