Varieties of poverty reduction: Inserting the poverty and social exclusion target into Europe 2020 1

Paul Copeland, Mary Daly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this article is to analyse the nature and significance of the recent European Union (EU) poverty and social exclusion target, which has become part of the EU's new 10-year strategy, known as 'Europe 2020'. It situates this analysis in the politics of social policy, at both transnational and national levels. The agreement on the target proved to be momentous and also contentious for the key actors involved - the Member States, the European Commission, the European Parliament - all of which were forced to change their position at some stage of the negotiations. The agreed target - to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by 2020 - is ambitious and novel in an EU context. The analysis undertaken here underlines its specificity and some weaknesses. First, the target was the result of a political opportunity seized upon by a number of pro-social policy actors (some in the European Commission, the Parliament, certain Member States as well as non-governmental organizations), rather than an agreement to further Europeanize social policy. Second, the target is a compromise in that it is constituted quite diversely in terms of whether it will succeed by addressing income poverty, severe material deprivation and/or household joblessness. Third, the target allows much leeway in response by the Member States, in terms of both which definition they will use and what level of ambition they set for their target. As such, the target risks both incoherence as an approach to social policy and ineffectiveness in terms of precipitating significant action by the Member States to address poverty and social exclusion. © The Author(s) 2012.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-287
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of European Social Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Europe 2020
  • joblessness
  • Lisbon Strategy
  • poverty
  • Social Europe
  • social exclusion


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