European commission highlights employment, social priorities

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The European Commission (the commission) has published its 2020-21 employment and social policy priorities in a communication that aims to reinforce the EU Pillar Of Social Rights agreed to in 2017. Proposals include a possible framework for paying fair minimum wages, binding measures to ensure gender pay transparency, improved implementation of labor and environmental clauses in European Union (EU) trade agreements, and publication in early 2021 of an action plan aimed at promoting the EU pillar of social rights. On 14 January, the commission launched an initial consultation with EU social partners on fair minimum wages, which will allow the commission to assess the need for further EU initiatives.  

Highlights of the initiatives and timeframe include:

  • Fair minimum wages that allow for a decent living standard (2020 Q1). The commission’s consultation says that social partners should be involved in setting minimum wages, which must be adequate and cover all workers. The national minimum wage setting frameworks must also be based on “clear and stable criteria.”
  • A European gender equality strategy and binding pay transparency measures (2020, Q1). The commission will focus on closing the gender pay and pensions gap and publish binding pay transparency measures.
  • Updated skills agenda (2020, Q1). The commission will issue a proposal for a European Vocational Education and Training recommendation.
  • Updated Youth Guarantee (2020, Q2). The commission will strengthen the EU’s Youth Guarantee that comprises training, education and employment opportunities.
  • Platform (or gig) work summit (2020, Q3). The summit will discuss priority issues connected with the employment of gig workers, including their employment status, working conditions, access to social protection, collective representation and bargaining, and cross-border issues.
  • Report on demography (2020, Q1) and green paper on ageing (2020, Q4). The commission will publish an assessment of the impact of demographic changes and a green paper that addresses long-term ageing issues, in particular elder care and pensions, and measures to promote active ageing.
  • Revised EU strategy for persons with disabilities (2021) and evaluation of the 2010-20 European Disability Strategy.
  • European Unemployment Reinsurance Scheme (2020, Q4). Publication of proposals for a European Unemployment Benefit Reinsurance Scheme that would protect citizens and “reduce the pressure on public finances during external shocks.”

Other employment-related initiatives flagged in the communication include:

  • Social dialogue. The commission will explore “ways to promote social dialogue and collective bargaining and increase the capacity of unions and employer organisations at the EU and national level,” including making “full use” of existing employee consultation mechanisms, such as the European Works Councils.
  • Health and safety. The commission will review the EU’s occupational safety and health strategy and focus on new and traditional workplace hazards.
  • Internationally agreed labor rights and standards. The commission will focus on upholding the labor and employment elements of the EU’s trade agreements. The commission will appoint a Chief Trade Enforcement Officer to monitor EU trade agreements, including the implementation of climate, environmental and labor protections, and warns that it will take “a zero-tolerance approach” to the use of child labor.  
Fiona Webster
by Fiona Webster

Principal, Mercer’s Law & Policy Group

Stephanie Rosseau
by Stephanie Rosseau

Principal, Mercer’s Law & Policy Group

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