Changes in the world of work should be used to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all
Today the EESC adopted an opinion on the outline of a European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) proposed by the European Commission to build "a deeper and fairer Economic and Monetary Union (EMU)" and achieve a "triple A social Europe". The debate took place in the presence of Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, and Maria João Rodrigues, the European Parliament's rapporteur on the EPSR.
The opinion sets out the Committee's initial ideas and proposals to address some of the major challenges confronting Europe today. The Committee emphasised that the EPSR must offer a positive project for all – with policies to facilitate the increase of employment, social progress and productivity as the underlying factors for sustainable growth, and national welfare systems and labour markets that are adaptable and fit for the future. The EESC believes that the future of work should be a key priority in debates on the Pillar to ensure it is fair and inclusive and leads to social progress. Contrary to the Commission's original suggestion to initially apply the EPSR to the Eurozone only, the EESC is of the opinion that the EPSR should be applied to all the Member States, while acknowledging that particular instruments/mechanisms may be needed for the Eurozone.
The opinion, which was requested by Commission President Jean-Claude Junker and is the result of several months' work, has been drawn up by rapporteurs Jacek Krawczyk, President of the EESC's Employers' Group, Gabriele Bischoff, President of the EESC's Workers' Group, and Luca Jahier, President of the EESC's Various Interests Group. It draws from the outcomes of national debates organised by members of the EESC in all 28 Member States, with consultations involving some 1800 representatives of civil society organisations.
In presenting the opinion Jacek Krawczyk, President of the EESC's Employers' Group, said:
Without economic success none of the EU Member States could afford its social system. There will be no well-being without successful companies that create jobs. That is why competitiveness is a precondition to maintaining the European social model. Member States must adapt labour markets and social protection systems to changing realities. We need the right balance between flexibility and security. Well-designed, appropriate benchmarks could help Member States to achieve positive results. Mr Krawczyk also drew attention to the fact that the national debates clearly showed that any action in the field of labour markets and social systems must respect the division of competences and the subsidiarity principle.
Gabriele Bischoff, President of the EESC's Workers Group, stressed that:
European workers need concrete actions to improve their living and working conditions, and restore their faith in the EU. Growing inequalities risks destroying our social fabric and pushing more and more people towards those who want to divide us. Reducing income inequality is paramount and stronger collective bargaining across Europe is a requisite for fairer pay and wealth distribution. We therefore want indicators on collective bargaining coverage throughout Europe. Stronger convergence on wages would also help to address many of the problems we are facing. The time for good intentions is over. Europe - meaning all of us in our various roles – urgently has to deliver concrete solutions to offer hope and security in this fast changing world.
Luca Jahier, President of the EESC's Various Interests Group, highlighted that:
We have to build a European Union which cares. Therefore, the EPSR should cover all citizens throughout their life cycle, including those who are excluded or are unable to participate in the labour market. The Pillar must provide a positive project for European citizens and respond to the increasing poverty and inequalities. The debates surrounding a possible EPSR clearly demonstrate the importance of linking the Pillar with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and for reforming the Welfare State, moving beyond public authorities. Social investment, the social economy, social enterprises and social innovation have a key role to play in these reforms and in the provision and access to quality services for all citizens.
Commissioner Marianne Thyssen stressed the importance of the EESC's contribution to the European Commission's subsequent work on the EPSR:
I wish to congratulate the three rapporteurs from all three groups here in the house, not only for the level of ambition, but also for the comprehensive nature of the issues the opinion addresses. It clearly represents a valuable contribution to the consultation on the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Closing the debate, Georges Dassis, President of the EESC, stressed that the proposals needed to be made reality for the general public:
There is constant innovation in areas such as techniques, management and marketing. It is high time for innovation in the social arena.
The EESC's opinion will feed into the European Commission's final proposal for the EPSR, which is expected in the next few months. The EESC will continue to monitor and be closely involved in all subsequent work and debates on the EPSR.