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This exploratory opinion was requested by the European Parliament to feed into a mission to Tallinn, Estonia, on "Digitalisation and the women's role", organised by the EP's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) on 19-21 September 2018. The opinion looks into the digital gender gap in education system and the labour market. It analyses the reasons behind this phenomenon it and makes proposals on how to increase the participation of girls in STEM and ICT studies and boost the presence of women in the digital sector. It also looks into the pros and cons of digitalisation and its impact on women's life-work balance.
The Committee considers that the Commission's proposal for setting up a European Labour Authority (ELA) is, if adequately implemented, an important step in the right direction towards improving cross-border mobility, enforcing European and national legislation, fostering cooperation between national labour market authorities and improving access to adequate and up-to-date information, tackling illegal activities and strengthening the internal market, provided that the ELA respects national and European competences and the Member States demonstrate their support and cooperation.
The EESC supports the proposal for a Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. A proper coverage of workers in non-standard forms of work and the self-employed would be in line with the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Access to social protection systems is key for fairer societies. The main outcomes would be: increasing the mutualisation of risk, income security, labour market dynamism, higher productivity, better allocation of resources, and reducing insecurity and poverty for individuals.
With this opinion the EESC welcomes the Commission's approach to leave SPC protection intact as regards placing products on the EU market, as well as the market exclusivity of EU SPC holders in the Member States during the full period of SPC protection. Furthermore the EESC deems it to be most important that, on those non-EU markets where protection does not exist or has expired, there be fair competition for EU-based manufacturers who bring generics and biosimilars to these markets. The EESC also supports the Commission's stance on SMEs, since they play an important role in manufacturing generics and developing biosimilars.
The EESC believes that the current proposal, although a step in the right direction, is not enough to tackle the existing barriers on the SME Growth Markets.
It stands by its previous opinions that the low level of communication and bureaucratic approaches are significant barriers and much more effort must be put into overcoming these obstacles.
Communication from Brussels should always target the bottom of the chain – the SMEs themselves. The EESC also advises the European Commission to look into the possibility of attracting institutional investors, such as private pension funds, to invest in these SME Growth Markets.
The EESC agrees with the European Commission about the need to modernise and simplify EU consumer policy and considers that the new legislative package contributes to bridging the gap created by the exponential growth of e-commerce, undermining consumer confidence and causing distortions to the single market.