Understanding the policy context

The legislative proposals for Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 have reinforced the role of the European Social Fund (ESF), which is the main EU financial instrument for targeting education and training. One of the four objectives of the ESF is “investing in education, skills and lifelong learning”; other objectives target employment and labor mobility; social inclusion; and institutional capacity. Minimum share rules for 2014-2020 will require Member States and regions to allocate higher amounts of Cohesion Policy funding to the ESF in the new period, resulting in at least €84 billion for the ESF, compared to the current €75 billion.

Educational achievement influences people’s access to employment, income, housing and other major social determinants of health. Lifelong learning can also contribute to the reduction of social, economic and health inequalities. Moreover, the relationship between education and health is two way – as child health status positively affects educational performance and attainment. Thematic ex-ante conditionalities for the “investing in education, skills and lifelong learning” objective urge Member States to put in place several strategies before receiving funding for the period 2014-2020. These include:

  • Strategy for Early School Leaving (ESL): Member States should have a comprehensive strategy on policies to reduce ESL, including measures for prevention, intervention and compensation. The strategy must be based on reliable data and evidence on ESL at national, regional and local level, and take into consideration all policy sectors and stakeholders relevant to ESL. [Link between staying in school and health benefits down the line with a link to a relevant study/document]

  • Strategy1 for tertiary education: in this strategy, Member States should target improvements in access, quality, and the employability of tertiary education.

  • Policy framework for lifelong learning (LLL): the framework should target access, transparency and relevance of further education and training and should include measures for an effective provision of skills development for disadvantaged groups such as low skilled and older workers, young people in vocational training, and women returning to the labor market.

In addition, the following policy elements are worth considering:

Inclusive growth, with investing in skills as one of its necessary preconditions, is among the priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy. One of the strategy’s headline targets is “on educational attainment”. The target tackles the problem of early school leavers by reducing the drop out rate to 10% from the current 15%, whilst increasing the share of the population aged 30-34 having completed tertiary education from 31% to at least 40% in 2020. According to the Europe 2020 strategy, by 2020 the demand for low skilled employees will drop by 12 million; while 16 million more jobs will require high qualifications. Achieving longer working lives will also require the possibility to acquire and develop new skills throughout the lifetime.


Developing Operational Programmes

The table (below) highlights some examples where the links between education and training and health have been recognized by Member States and regions in the 2007-2013 programmes, both in the strategic socio-economic analysis and in the design of investment priorities and measures. For more details on the examples, follow the links to the relevant Operational Programmes from the 2007-2013 period.



Where to find it

The OP Education for the Slovak Republic, under the Ministry of Education has a total estimated budget of €617. The OP recognizes the two-way link between education as a contributing factor to health; and health as a contributing factor to education. It includes measure 2.1 on LLL and measure 2.2 on LLL in the Health Sector.

Slovak Republic, Education OP 2007-2013, Measures 2.1 and 2.2

Ireland has recognized a t link between the enhancement of the skills of workers and increased safety in workplace contributing to the workers’ health. “The training provided will help to promote the goal of health and safety in the workplace through specific training programmes which deal with specific areas of training which involve risk (such as machine operating and driving) to more generalized good workplace training in foundation skills programmes which promote safe ways and methods of working and minimization of workplace risks.”

Ireland Human Capital Investment OP 2007-2013, Priority Axis 1, Section 4.3.1, Page 63

Bulgaria has made “improving the effectiveness of labor market institutions and of social and healthcare services” a priority axis in its Human Resources Development OP. Education and training is identified as a key method in improving social and healthcare services.

Bulgaria, Human Resources Development OP 2007-2013, Priority Axis 6, Page 130


Developing Projects

The Declining, Ageing and Regional Transformation (DART) project sees 13 regions across the EU cooperating together to address the shared challenges presented by an ageing and declining population. The project participating regions educate each ither in best practice to identify, benchmark and transfer appropriate solutions to this widespread demographic challenge. The aim is to formulate an integrated strategy that strengthens the economy, educational and health care services, and ultimately prevents the social and economic exclusion of people living in shrinking regions. ‘Best practices’ will be selected to be showcased at three main project conferences between spring 2011 and spring 2012. [Might be more appropriate for social inclusion]

1 Link to COM (2006) 208 final [to be replaced by the forthcoming Communication by the end of September 2011)