Commission presents EUR 81 million socio-economic research networks to address major European challenges

March 14, 2003

Brussels, 13 March 2003

What factors contribute most to our stress? What prevents working parents achieving a satisfactory work-life balance? Why do more women work for less money? These are just some of the issues affecting Europeans, raised by 89 new research projects that will be presented tomorrow in Brussels by European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. The projects, backed by €81 million of EU money, represent the biggest ever socio-economic research networks in the world. The research findings, revealing current social trends and changes across Europe, will help to develop measures to improve people's quality of life across and beyond the EU.

"People today face a very different range of pressures to those encountered by previous generations", said European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. "If we are to develop effective solutions to the problems that affect society in 21 st century Europe, we need accurate information about the underlying causes. Armed with this knowledge, we are better equipped to tackle the issues that affect European society today."

The biggest socio-economic research effort ever

Grouped around five key issues and policy fields, these projects will address wide-ranging socio-economic themes across Europe:

  • Societal and individual well being and policies quality of life and social cohesion covering issues like overcoming the barriers and seizing the opportunities for active ageing policies in Europe; impact of changing social structures on stress and quality of life; conflict between family life and professional work; youth justice systems across Europe; role of trade unions in combating discrimination and xenophobia; and understanding homeless populations.

  • Governance, citizenship and the dynamics of European integration, enlargement and security - covering issues like political participation of young people in Europe; dual citizenship; communicating with small and medium enterprises; citizenship of migrants and minorities; obstacles and barriers to cross-border commuting in the EU; cultural patterns of the European Enlargement process; identifying the challenges of the enlarged single European market and enlargement and media issues.

  • Gender, governance and quality of life - covering issues like creating cultures of success for women engineers; a European perspective of employment and gender in the knowledge based society; gender, parenthood and the changing European workplace; gender sensitive and women-friendly public policies and a network on European women's rights.

  • Challenges to development models: broad perspectives, knowledge dynamics and innovation covering issues like employees' social rights and wage inequality in Europe; employment and innovation in the public sector; higher education institutions' responses to Europeanisation and a European policy for intellectual property

  • Infrastructures for building the European Research Area - covering issues like European culture online; multilingual access to data infrastructures in the European Research Area; integrating knowledge with the use of informatic tools in science education
Informed Policy-making

Past and current EU research in these fields has already provided important information for policy makers. For instance, at the EU level, socio-economic research feeds into the design of major EU policy initiatives such as the "White Paper on Governance", the "Social Exclusion Plan", the Communication on the Role of Universities and, more recently, to help the future formulation of the Commission Position Paper on "Formal and Informal Work".

The way ahead: the European Social Survey

The Commission will keep fostering socio-economic research. A key part of building the European Research Area in this field is the creation of 'infrastructures' available to all researchers. A new initiative in this field is the European Social Survey, a joint collaborative research effort between 23 national funding bodies, the European Science Foundation and the European Commission.

Some examples of core items addressed by this survey are: public trust in government, politicians and other major institutions, political interest and participation; social inclusion and exclusion, well-being, health and security; education and occupational background. This survey will provide a fully documented and easily accessible set of data to scholars, policy analysts, journalists, politicians and the public at large. The first release of data is foreseen in Summer 2003.

For further information please visit:

DN: IP/03/371 Date: 13/03/2003

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