The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
Young people should receive the same pay and social security benefits as other workers, including the same minimum wages, which is still not the case in all Member States
The EU and Member States need to put an end to discriminatory practices against young people, such as low youth minimum wages and unpaid traineeships. Young people also need to be more directly involved in designing policies, especially those affecting them, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) said on 15 June.
These demands, put forward by the EESC in two opinions adopted at its June plenary session, coincided with the European Parliament's adoption of a report on quality traineeships, which on 14 June called on the Commission to propose a directive on the issue. The directive would make it illegal to employ interns and trainees for longer periods without pay – an issue for which youth organisations have advocated for quite some time.
Too many young people subject to lower minimum wages or undertaking unpaid internships have a negative experience of the labour market. We cannot be blind to this reality in Member States today, said Michael McLoughlin, rapporteur of the opinion The equal treatment of young people in the labour market.
We want the EU Institutions, Member States and social partners to examine this issue. We need to restore the faith of young people and reconnect many of them with the EU project, he stressed.
We need a lot of investment, but what has been done so far is not adequate, said Nicoletta Merlo, rapporteur of the opinion Cooperation on youth, requested by the upcoming Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU, which aims to give a fresh impetus to the EU youth agenda.
When it comes to youth, we cannot afford to not be ambitious. Young people have the right to be listened to and to act. Their participation must be encouraged throughout the whole process of designing, implementing and following up public policies, which have to stress the importance of the role of youth organisations and take into consideration new informal ways in which young people get together, cooperate and engage in dialogue, Ms Merlo said.
The EESC has called for the principle of equal treatment to be better enforced when it comes to young people in the labour market, as they still face discrimination solely on the basis of their age. The EESC has asked for them to have the same working conditions and employment benefits, social security and social assistance as other workers.
Furthermore, under the equal pay for equal work principle, young people should be entitled to the same minimum wage as other workers. This is currently not the case in some countries that have established lower separate minimum wages for youth, despite the fact that 1 in 4 young workers are minimum-wage earners, compared to 1 in 10 other workers.
Young people are also the focus of the political programme of the EESC's new President, Oliver Röpke, who has put great emphasis on strengthening dialogue with young people and involving them in policy-making.
In a debate with youth organisations held during the plenary session, Mr Röpke said: We committed to a more inclusive model that puts young people at the heart of the engagement process. I have made it my political priority to open the doors of the EESC to young people, and I don't intend to stop at EU borders. I want to reach out to youth organisations from candidate countries as well. Our future lies with youth, and it should be the youth deciding how they want this future to look.
The debate saw the participation of representatives of the European Youth Forum, Generation Climate Europe and ReDI School of Digital Integration. They stressed the importance of meaningfully and consistently involving young people in policy-making.
Young people should not be an afterthought, but should be at the very centre of policy-making, said María Rodriguez, President of the European Youth Forum. She put a strong emphasis on the need to ban unpaid internships and for young people to earn the same as their older peers for identical work, and for them to be given the same social protection.
It is only with these important changes that young people can even begin to achieve any kind of labour market parity with older generations – the very minimum that we deserve, she concluded.