Commission employment guidelines for Member States adequately address the most urgent challenges

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has given a favourable assessment of the European Commission's guidelines for Member States' employment policies, describing them as appropriate since they address the most urgent issues in the labour market.

In an opinion adopted at its plenary session in September, the EESC stressed that the current increasingly uncertain geopolitical situation – which is likely to negatively affect the EU economy, cause high inflation and recession and consequently diminish purchasing power – warrants decisive action from the Member States, which should work towards a truly integrated single market and help SMEs scale up.

Labour shortages are on the rise again, which is why we believe that effective measures should be implemented to encourage the social partners to work on the skills needed at national level, with action tailored to individual sectors and local situations. It is becoming increasingly important for both workers and businesses to acquire the relevant skills and competencies, the rapporteur of the opinion, Mariya Mincheva, told the plenary.

According to the EESC, the role of the social partners in designing and implementing employment, social and economic reforms and policies should be strengthened, including by building their capacity.

The EESC's opinion points out that one important challenge is to lower the inactivity rate, and that targeted support is especially important for long-term unemployed and/or inactive people.

It also puts special emphasis on in-work poverty and stresses the need for combined action through different policy instruments and measures negotiated by the social partners. These policy instruments should include decent wages, including adequate minimum wages, and well-designed and temporary financial incentives, accompanied by targeted and effective training and upskilling measures.

Youth-specific forward-looking policy measures are also crucial to ensure that young people are not left behind. Member States, especially those identified as low performers in the social scoreboard, should be encouraged to make it easier for employers to employ people with disabilities or offer self-employment opportunities where this is possible, Ms Mincheva said.

She warned of the likely challenges that the growing ageing population and shrinking workforce will pose to social security and healthcare systems in the Member States, adding that they have to be carefully taken into consideration so that pension systems continue to be adequate and financially sustainable.

In 2022, the European Commission proposed a number of amendments to Member States' employment policies. They reflect recent initiatives and add new elements linked to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The EESC welcomed the Commission's focus on the post-COVID environment, which aims to ensure sustainable growth.

The amended guidelines focus on boosting the demand for labour, enhancing the labour supply, improving access to employment, facilitating lifelong acquisition of skills and competencies, improving the functioning of labour markets, making social dialogue more effective, promoting equal opportunities for all, fostering social inclusion and combating poverty.