ISG (Indicators Sub-Group) was established in 2001 to
provide analytical and technical expertise to the Social Protection Committee (SPC). This included
developing social indicators and designing the monitoring processes. Initially
they were used for openly coordinating the social protection and social
inclusion sectors and later on they were also used for the European Semester,
the EU’s 2020 strategy or the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR).
A single indicator that can measure everything does not exist
Political processes demand results that can
be interpreted quickly and clear messages. Social protection systems are
complex entities and they cover a wide range of different, even competing, objectives.
They cannot be mapped using a few or even a single indicator. This can also be
seen in the objectives jointly agreed upon at European level. A set of
indicators is needed if they are to be depicted in a meaningful and fair way.
The ISG has had to distinguish between key
indicators and related complementary indicators in order to meet both
requirements for an indicator-based analysis. The key indicators provide an
initial quick overview, whereas the supplementary indicators allow further
This was the basis on which the first European
social indicators in the poverty and social participation sectors were adopted
by the EC in Laeken in December 2001. They were supplemented by the first
common indicators used in the pensions sector
Staying in the dark is risky - what is not measured cannot be recognised
The indicators and monitoring processes
developed by the ISG have been continuously enhanced during the past 20 years.
Close co-operation with Eurostat and the official statistics working groups was
essential right from the very beginning. This has clearly benefited the quality
and status of European social statistics. This cooperation has also significantly
contributed to closing gaps within the indicator set.
However, not all of the target areas have
been depicted. There are many reasons for this. Some objectives are difficult
to grasp methodologically. For others, there is still no comparable database at
European level. However, these gaps are problematic. Objectives that have not
been depicted using indicators receive less attention in the reports. At worst,
they will no longer be considered. Formerly equivalent objectives become first
and second-order objectives through a technical act. The “Employment, Social
Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs” council is well aware of this risk. At the meeting held between 14 and 15 June 2021, when referring to
the revised social scoreboard, the Council stressed the need to work towards
reflecting all of the EPSR principles in the social scoreboard through key