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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.1 General context

Last update: 4 February 2021
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  1. Main challenges to social inclusion
  2. Main concepts

Main challenges to social inclusion

The main challenges to achieve greater inclusion of the resident youth population in Spain, according to the Youth Strategy 2020 (Estrategia Juventud 2020), are:

  • to reduce youth unemployment while ensuring quality, more stable and better paid employment, as well as guaranteeing access to other resources such as housing, culture, etc.
  • to improve the average level of education and to reduce early school leaving and to reintegrate young people who abandoned their studies early
  • to guarantee access to housing for an earlier emancipation
  • to improve the channels of social, cultural and political participation for greater social cohesion.

The 2019-2023 National Strategy for the prevention and fight against poverty and social exclusion (Estrategia Nacional de Prevención y Lucha contra la Pobreza y Exclusión Social) has three areas of action of particular relevance for the inclusion of young people:

  • Employment: persistently high rates of youth unemployment in Spain point towards the need to establish specific action programmes for young people, especially when the absence of employment is the main cause of exclusion in other areas (health, housing, etc.). In this sense, some of the actions outlined in The National Strategy for the prevention and fight against poverty and social exclusion are addressed.
  • Education: the main challenges in education are the fight against early school-leaving, the improvement of the general educational level, which is below the European average, the promotion of vocational training and the search for educational alternatives of interest to encourage the return of adults who left their studies prematurely. There is a further development on this topic in chapter 2.5.1.
  • Housing: In the years of economic prosperity, constant rises in the price of housing created accessibility problems for groups such as young people and families with limited resources.There is a further development on this topic in the chapter 2.5.3.

In the area of health, since the 2020 Youth Strategy (Estrategia Juventud 2020), establishes that socio-health and employment programmes for people at risk of exclusion (Axis 5, action 21) must be developped.

The National Action Plan sees young people as a particularly vulnerable group and therefore the target of specific inclusive interventions beyond those already mentioned in terms of employment and education.

Currently the main issues under discussion regarding the social inclusion of young people are:

  • The need to approve the new National Action Plan 2017-2020 which, in February 2017, announced by the former Secretary of State for Social Services and Equality.
  • The need to design the 2017-2020 Action Plan, corresponding to the 2020 Youth Strategy, for which it is necessary to approve the state budgets for 2016-2017.

Beyond the updating of the plans for inclusion, there is no prospect in the future for a development of legislation related to the social inclusion of young people.

As new challenges, while deepening the objectives already proposed in the plans, some points to consider are:

  • The inclusion of disadvantaged young people in the information society and communication to avoid social gaps that lead to economic gaps
  • Integration, cohesion and social and democratic participation. Channelling the political, social and cultural participation of youth
  • Meeting the demographic challenge. Reverting the aging trend of the population pyramid in Spain and favour the increase of the birth rate among young Spaniards
  • Strengthen the European identity of young Spaniards and their democratic spirit.

Main concepts

Poverty and social exclusion: the reverse of inclusion

Poverty: Following the definition of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, poverty is defined as symptom of lack andof scarcity of resources to meet needs that society regards as basic. It is measured from the following indicators:

  1. The poverty risk rate (once social transfers are taken into account),
  2. The material deprivation index and
  3. The percentage of people living in households with a very low labour intensity.

Social exclusion: the process of loss of integration or participation of people in society and in the different economic, political and social spheres. It is the lack of resources for an active and effective social participation.

Social exclusion therefore implies difficulties in some or all of these three areas:

  1. Economic: employment, income, deprivation
  2. Political, citizenship exercise: political rights, education, health, housing
  3. Social relations: isolation, anomie.


The European Union framework has defined social inclusion as ‘a process that ensures that those at risk of poverty and social exclusion increase the opportunities and resources necessary to participate fully in economic, social and cultural life, as well as enjoy living and welfare conditions that they consider normal in the society in which they live’.

It is also possible to find other definitions by organizations working in the field, such as Doctors of the World. For them, social inclusion refers to “social integration, social harmony and social justice, conditions that are contingent upon the implementation and enforcement of measures designed to ensure that all members of a society have an equal opportunity to participate in every facet of its social life (economic, legal, political or cultural as well as others)”.

Active inclusion: Following the European Commission definition, it refers to the search for overcoming strategies focused only on partial aspects of the problem of exclusion and poverty, such as those addressed exclusively to the labour market, or those based only on welfare policies.

According to the Social Inclusion Guidelines from the The Ministry of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda (Ministerio de Derechos Sociales y Agenda 2030) , active inclusion seeks to articulate policies combining labour insertion with social support, especially to disadvantaged groups through the maintenance of levels of social protection that allow the development of a dignified life and greater social and economic cohesion.

Strategies, Plans and policies of action

The 2019-2023 National Strategy for the prevention and fight against poverty and social exclusion.

Currently, as mentioned above, besides the broader Youth Strategy 2020, there is one main Action Plan for the social inclusion in the Spanish State:

The 2019-2023 National Strategy for the prevention and fight against poverty and social exclusion (Estrategia Nacional de Prevención y Lucha contra la Pobreza y Exclusión Social) is the frame of reference in terms of operational objectives, measures and axes of action for the inclusion of society as a whole in Spain. Although it is not an exclusive policy document for young people, the National Action Plan on Social Inclusion 2013-2016 includes specific measures for the youth in terms of employment and education. 

In February 2017, the former Secretary of State for Social Services and Equality announced the preparation of the Second Action Plan of the Youth Strategy 2017-2020.

European Strategy 2020: A growth strategy developed by the European Union in 2010 with the main objectives to be fulfilled by the year 2020. In the inclusion section, its main task is to reduce the rates of poverty and social exclusion.

Youth Strategy 2020, which remains the reference strategy for youth policies is divided into six priority axes: 1) education and training, 2) employment and entrepreneurship, 3) housing, 4) prevention and health, 5) participation, voluntary inclusion and equality, and 6) institutional cooperation. The Strategy was approved by the Council of Ministers on September 12, 2014 (Consejo de Ministros el 12 septiembre de 2014). It is an inter-ministerial initiative promoted by the The Ministry of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda (Ministerio de Derechos Sociales y Agenda 2030)  through the Institute of Youth (Instituto de la Juventud).

Originally, the Strategy ought to be implemented from three biannual Action Plans: I) 2014-2016 Action Plan currently in force, stipulated in the 2014 and 2015 budgets; II) the 2016-2018 Action Plan stipulated in the 2016 and 2017 budgets; and III) the 2018-2020 Action Plan, stipulated in the 2018 and 2019 budgets. However, it was changed to only two Action Plans, after the end of the first one (2014-2016): I) Action Plan 2014-2016 and Action Plan 2017-2020.

Statistical Sources and Inclusion Indicators

Statistical sources containing data on inclusion are:

The Living Conditions Survey (LCS): a survey conducted annually since 2004 by the Spanish National Statistical Institute. It is the main source of statistical information on inclusion in Spain. Its purpose is to measure and compare income distribution and social exclusion. It is equivalent to the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), of Eurostat.

The main indicator used by these surveys, harmonized at the European level, is the Poverty Risk Rate, better known as AROPE Rate (At Risk of Poverty and/or Exclusion Rate). According to the latest available data (2016), the AROPE Rate among young people aged between 16 and 29 years old in Spain is 38.1% for females and 37.1%for males.

The below table illustrates trends from 2006 up to the point of the latest available data (2018), showing a considerable year-on-year gradual increase and a negative correlation between the risk of poverty by gender.








































Source: Income and Living Conditions. Eurostat, 2020


Poverty risk rate or AROPE Rate is the main indicator of poverty and exclusion. Statistically, the population that is in any of the three situations defined below is considered to be at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion:

  1. People living with low income (60% of the average of the equivalent income or per unit of consumption).
  2. People who suffer severe material deprivation
  3. People living in households with low work intensity (under 20%).

In 2019, the latest data available, the AROPE Rate among Spanish youth (16-29 years old) was 31.7%. The series since the indicator was measured in 2010 is as follows:

UNIT: Percentage of total population | AGE: From 16 to 29 years |














EU 28



























Source: Income and Living Conditions. Eurostat, 2020