Health Workforce and Care Strategy for the future of Europe - Related Opinions
This Own-initiative Opinion analyses the structural causes that have led to the elderly care systems in general and to the nursing homes in particular, to become some of the most contagious and lethal factors of this pandemic. To this end, the different systems that exist in EU Member States are compared to learn useful lessons.
In addition, the opinion calls for the need to address the demographic transition as one of the major challenges of the twenty-first century, alongside environmental and digital transitions.
The EESC welcomes both the Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the Child Guarantee, and considers that their implementation will help support efforts at European and national level aimed at promoting children's well-being and reducing child poverty. This opinion calls for the consultation and involvement of organised civil society, children's and family organisations, amongst other stakeholders, in the drafting of national action plans and their monitoring mechanisms. The EESC recommends all Member States to earmark ESF+ funding for lifting children out of poverty, with the designated 5% taken as a minimum. Furthermore, it recommends them to grant free access to early childhood education and care, education and school-based activities and healthcare or grant these services free of charge.
The opinion, presenting EESC's position on the four proposals of the Health package published by the European Commission in November 2020, supports and welcomes these initiatives but draws the attention on some elements.
- The EU and Member States should ensure that everyone has equal access to quality, well staffed, well equipped health and social services. This is particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which has deepened existing inequalities.
- Special attention in future EU policies should be given to healthcare workers and the need to improve working conditions, including pay, recruitment and retention, as well as their health and safety.
- The new EU health package should be combined with the roll-out of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), particularly its principles 12, 16, 17 and 18 and the Action Plan on the EPSR. It should also be part of achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.
In this opinion the EESC makes the following points:
1. The EU and Member States should ensure that the gender perspective is fully integrated in COVID-19 recovery measures.
2. Gender equality should be fully taken into account in the forthcoming Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027.
3. The Gender Equality Strategy should be coordinated involving all Member States, social partners and civil society organisations.
4. To put an end to the gender pay gap (16%), binding measures on gender pay transparency are unavoidable.
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The EU's demographic situation requires a holistic approach that embraces social and economic policies, active labour market and cohesion policies, policies supporting families, measures for ageing workers etc. The best answer to the labour drain related to internal migration is the social and economic upward convergence of Member States. The COVID-19 crisis will strongly affect the policies on demographic challenges. We need urgent measures to protect citizens from the negative effects of this crisis.
The EESC thinks the "work-life balance" package is a step in the right direction, to be further analysed and be improved in the future. Social partners throughout Europe should be encouraged to examine additional practical solutions to promote a work-life balance that suits the specificities of workplaces, particularly in SMEs. Moreover, there is need for investment in high-quality, affordable and available care services and facilities for all families, as well as for tax deductions that help working parents to continue working.
Europe's population is getting older. While demand for homecare grows, exploitative conditions persist among "live-in" carer workers, who work in the least regulated informal and semi-formal segments of the sector. The EESC calls on the European Union to work closely with Member States to coordinate the supply and mobility of live-in care workers and respect their rights as part of an overall approach to improve this sector.
No EU institution has so far addressed the issues surrounding live-in care workers, a social group that is expanding as population ages in Europe. The EESC believes that their existence in the European labour market must be recognised and the quality of the services they deliver improved. They should be treated in a similar way to other care workers and enjoy similar protection. Financial support for care recipients also needs to be made available through adequate long-term and sustainable social investment.