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"I work therefore I am (European)"

In his opening speech at the "I work therefore I am" conference, EESC president Georges Dassis had this message: "The EESC has already highlighted the need to adapt to new developments. Our role is not to oppose these transitions, but to guide them as well as possible in order to take advantage of all the benefits they can represent for growth, for the promotion of innovation, for good quality jobs, for sustainable financing and solidarity – including social protection –, and for social fulfilment."

The Jean Monnet "I work therefore I am (European)" project team has staged an interdisciplinary conference to discuss the role of work in society and go beyond just its economic value. Against a backdrop of significant changes in the world of work – such as deindustrialisation, digitalisation, the blurring of boundaries between working and private lives, the polarisation of work, casualisation and migration –, the event brought together political bodies and other stakeholders (including civil society organisations, trade unions, universities, private foundations and think tanks) to examine the political agenda and historical, philosophical and humanist thinking on work.

Mr Dassis said that in order to prevent a lack of income security leading to precariousness, clarity was needed about workers' rights in precarious and changing employment, including fundamental labour rights, working hours, the right to refuse work without penalty and fair wages. He also insisted on the importance of the European social model, since it defines work in Europe, which has been – and continues to be – dominated by standard employment contracts. "In new forms of work," he noted, "European workers still expect decent working conditions. The social model in Europe can and must be evaluated over time, but it remains imperative to fight against growing insecurity, poverty and inequality."

Mr Dassis concluded by referring to the EESC opinion on a European Minimum Income, saying introduction of the minimum income would help to ensure economic and territorial cohesion, a balance between economic and social objectives and the fair redistribution of resources and incomes.