Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very glad to present to you today the European Pillar of Social Rights.
This is a crucial moment for this Commission, and, more importantly, this is a crucial moment for Europe.
President Juncker has already made clear at the beginning of his mandate that he wanted everyone to work towards a ‘social triple A' for Europe. This ambition was at the core of the Political Guidelines on which this Commission was elected.
He first announced the Pillar in his state of the Union speech in September 2015.
Since then, we have worked tirelessly on this proposal and discussed it broadly all over Europe, with ministers, with social partners, with NGO's and citizens. We have enriched our thinking and proposal through a wide public consultation.
Today we deliver on our promise.
Why do we need a European Pillar of Social Rights?
There are two strong arguments for it: on the one hand there is an economic argument, on the other hand this simply is what people in Europe expect from us. And rightly so.
Firstly, on the economic argument: for our social market economy to be successful and competitive also in the future it is crucial that living and working conditions in Europe converge for the better.
This is particularly important for the euro area and in the context of completing the economic and monetary union.
This is why the Pillar is primarily conceived for the euro area but applicable to all Member States wishing to be part of it.
Secondly, a fairer and more social Europe is also simply what citizens expect.
The world of work and our societies are changing fast.
Globalisation, the digital revolution, our ageing society and changing work patterns - there are plenty of opportunities and challenges ahead of us.
We need to shape these developments and make good use of them.
The European social model has been a success story. But this is not a given.
We need to make sure that economic and social developments go hand in hand and Europe continues to be a world-class place to live and to work.
What is the European Pillar of Social Rights?
We are putting forward today 20 principles and rights, ranging from the right to a minimum wage all over Europe to the right to health care.
From the principles of work-life balance and equal opportunities to the right to social protection.
This is about social rights in a broad sense.
We are reaffirming some rights that are already present in the EU.
But we also complement them to take account of new realities of the 21st century.
For example, today people are much more likely to change jobs ten times throughout their career compared to a few decades ago. It is during those moments of transition, when people are more fragile, that they need to be supported most.
Where needed, existing EU law will be updated, complemented and better enforced.
These principles and rights will support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems in Europe.
The Pillar will be a compass for a renewed process of convergence towards better living and working conditions.
In other words, the Pillar will help us avoid a race to the bottom and encourage a race to the top.
Let me be very clear from the beginning: the Pillar will not change anything related to competences.
We do not plan to legislate on every aspect of the Pillar.
The centre of gravity of social and employment policies is and will remain with national and local authorities.
Social partners will continue to play their important role. The EU level will help set the framework and can lead the way forward to implementing the Pillar.
But delivering on the principles and rights is a joint responsibility together with Member States and social partners.
We can and will only build a fairer and more social Europe together.
Therefore we will now enter into discussions with the Council and the European Parliament to work towards broad political support and high-level endorsement of the Pillar.
Our aim is to achieve this towards the end of this year with a joint inter-institutional proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
We launch today, also for the first time, a social scoreboard.
The social scoreboard 2017 gives a clear overview of Member States' performance in the social field and shows us where we stand on achieving a “social triple A”.
Examples are the share of early school leavers, the youth unemployment rate or the impact of social transfers on poverty reduction.
From now on we will update this monitoring tool once a year and the results will also feed into the European Semester of economic and social policy coordination.
We flank the Pillar today with a number of concrete legislative and non-legislative initiatives.
These initiatives give you a good idea on what the Pillar should ultimately mean for citizens, very practically.
Starting with our initiative on work-life balance - on which my colleague Vera Jourová will give you all the details in a moment - let me say that we want to increase women's participation in the labour market and ensure they women and men can better balance their private and professional lives.
Today the employment gap between men and women is more than 11%.
This explains partly the pay gap of 16% and the pension gap of 40% which increases women's exposure to poverty.
The economic loss due to the gender employment gap is estimated to be around €370 billion per year.
In the context of demographic ageing and the shortage that we face on the labour market, we cannot afford leaving this huge talent untapped.
We also launch two social-partner consultations today, on the access to social protection for all workers and on modernising the rights relating to labour contracts.
Firstly, we need to look at ways to better align our social security systems with new forms of work.
We want to ensure that as many people as possible, including the self-employed and gig-economy workers, are covered and can build up rights against contributions.
Secondly, we want to ensure clarity for workers and employers on their contractual relationship, irrespective of the type of contract.
Our goal is to increase protection for the most precarious workers, including digital workers by modernising the EU rules on what needs to be spelled out in a job contract through the revision of the Written Statement Directive.
You see how, very practically, we want social partners to play their role in this project.
And, last but not least, we also give legal guidance on the working time directive.
This will give more legal clarity to authorities, employers and workers.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have no illusions:
There will be those that say this goes too far.
And there will be others that will say it does not go far enough.
This is only natural when we look at the diversity of Europe.
But we now have the unique chance to bridge these differences and go forward together.
European leaders have pledged to do so only some weeks ago in Rome.
We need to work together on a fairer Europe with a strong social dimension.
This is what we owe to our citizens.
And this is crucial for our economies to prosper in a changing world, in which we can only succeed together. Thank you.
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