Emergency measures to support employment and income during the pandemic crisis (own-initiative opinion – Gr II)

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Opinia EKES-u: Emergency measures to support employment and income during the pandemic crisis (own-initiative opinion – Gr II)

Key points

This opinion seeks to analyse the impact of the emergency measures aimed at limiting unemployment, supporting income and helping businesses, with a particular focus on the SURE instrument.

The EESC:

  • supports the establishment of SURE as an innovative financial instrument which delivers on European solidarity to preserve jobs, provide income support to workers and support businesses, as well as a tool for integration and socio-economic resilience in the EU.
  • welcomes the SURE initiative, which by financing short-time work schemes, income support and business support has protected a quarter of the total working population, preserving jobs and businesses' productive capacity, as well as having a positive impact on the economy and the labour market. However, it points out that these figures do not sufficiently highlight the individual measures financed by the various countries, the amounts involved and the categories of workers covered by the aid.
  • proposes that a SURE observatory be set up for as long as SURE is in operation, involving the social partners and other civil society organisations. The observatory would be tasked with monitoring and assessing the impact in individual countries of the measures which receive financing, in order, inter alia, to identify models for systems in the future that could be used to reduce working time and support incomes in similar crisis situations.
  • recommends combining the use of SURE with active labour market policies and vocational training and re-skilling programmes aimed at creating stable and quality employment, combating in-work poverty and fragmented and precarious forms of work, which also affect public welfare systems.
  • stresses the need to shape and complete Europe's social dimension more consistently, while ensuring Europe’s competitiveness in the global context and including with a view to the new challenges of the green and digital transitions, drawing on the measures set out in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, including measures and investments to support employment, education and active labour market policies.
  • supports the Commission communication suspending the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact and calls for a "shift" towards a revised and rebalanced economic governance framework geared towards promoting productive investment. It will be essential to help Member States put their public finances on a sustainable footing and in this way increase confidence in investment.
  • believes that the support and participation of the social partners brings added value to European and national policies. It is therefore essential that they are involved in the measures co-financed by SURE, leveraging collective bargaining in specific sectors hit particularly hard by the crisis. However, this must not be merely a formality: the social partners must be given a genuine and legitimate role in proceedings.
  • fully acknowledges the positive results of SURE highlighted in the Commission's report of March 2021 and endorses the proposal for its stabilisation in support of workers and businesses as a tool for the EU's integration and socio-economic resilience in times of crisis such as the current one. This should take place following monitoring and evaluation by the SURE Observatory, which the EESC proposes to set up.
  • welcomes the European Commission’s “EASE” Recommendation, which takes the strategic approach of gradually shifting from the emergency measures deployed during the pandemic to the new ones needed to ensure a job-rich recovery, notably active labour market policies such as temporary hiring incentives for vulnerable groups, upskilling and reskilling opportunities and entrepreneurial support, including for the social economy.