Common minimum standards in the field of unemployment insurance in EU Member States – a concrete step towards the effective implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (own-initiative opinion)

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Udvalgets udtalelse: Common minimum standards in the field of unemployment insurance in EU Member States – a concrete step towards the effective implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (own-initiative opinion)

Key points

The European Economic and Social Committee draws attention to principle 13 of the European Pillar of Social Rights - Unemployment benefits and shares the Commission's view that improved standards in Member States' unemployment insurance systems enable labour markets to function more effectively, are better able to reintegrate unemployed people into the labour market on a sustainable basis and serve as an automatic stabiliser.

The EESC recommends setting targets for the Member States' unemployment benefits for net replacement rate, entitlement period, coverage rate, training and activation.

As a first step, targets for unemployment benefits should be set and monitored in a European Semester benchmarking processby means of country-specific recommendations to the Member States.

The EESC recommends the monitoring of unemployment benefits in the social scoreboard and a benchmarking process for unemployment benefits as a complement to the social scoreboard.

The aim of the benchmark process would be to promote the upward social convergence of the Member States and improve the functioning of labour markets.

The benchmark process should be managed by the Commission and the social partners should be closely and consistently involved in setting benchmarks.

The EESC recommends that the results of the benchmarking process should be closely monitored and evaluated. If there is insufficient progress towards the desired outcomes, a legally binding instrument should be introduced to support and complement Member States' efforts. In addition to a Council Recommendation to guide Member States, the EESC recommends introducing a directive pursuant to Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union laying down legally binding minimum standards for the Member States' unemployment insurance systems. This directive should include EU-wide minimum standards for unemployment benefits in terms of net replacement rate, entitlement period and coverage rate. The EESC is also in favour of EU-wide minimum standards for training and activation.

As set out in Article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the right of Member States to define the fundamental principles of their social security systems and the financial equilibrium thereof must not be significantly affected by this. This principle should be respected irrespective of the form or substance of the system in the Member State. Member States would not be prevented from exercising the right provided for in the Treat to maintain or introduce more stringent protective measures.