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Remarks by Commissioner Schmit at the press conference on the European Semester Winter Package

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 27 februari 2020.

I want to start on a good note: employment is at a record high in Europe. However, we have to be aware that labour markets are affected by the changes in our economies. Some Member States are facing major difficulties like high youth unemployment, long-term unemployment, and also high level of atypical job forms leading to job precariousness. Therefore we need to invest in skills. This is a key issue and we will address it by presenting a new Skills Agenda next month.

We need to step up our fight for more equality and social justice by strengthening the social dimension of the European Semester and fully implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights that is our strategy to ensure fair and sustainable transitions - fair working conditions, decent wages and adequate social protection for all.

As regards to wages, despite moderate wage growth during last years, the situation of low-wage workers has worsened. Wage and income inequalities have not decreased. Therefore rising inequality remains major issue socially and economically. Our economy is not yet working for all the people as it should.

One example ispoverty and exclusion, that are declining but the number of children at risk of poverty remains high. It is absolutely essential that we reverse the trend of increasing in-work poverty. Work should always pay and allow you to live a decent life. This is also an example of sustainability.

This is exactly our aim with fair minimum wages across the EU and the promotion of collective bargaining.

Investment in education, skills and vocational training is crucial to adapt to climate and digital transitions and also a path out of poverty. Investment in a stronger more productive economy that works for all.

Reforming tax systems shifting tax burden from labour also can boost economic growth.

Today we also present the update of Employment Guidelines. This update reflects better our general objectives in Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, as well as challenges we need to face in the labour markets. Main changes focus on:

  • the objective of achieving a sustainable social market economy, in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights.
  • references to the digital and green transitions and the need to ensure these are fair and just, especially in relation to job opportunities and job changes.
  • new elements on fair, transparent and predictable working conditions and improvement of labour conditions of platform workers.
  • gender equality, pay gaps and pay transparency as well as employment traits of women are identified and will be reflected in the new Gender Strategy.
  • stronger attention to lower and middle-income groups, when it comes to fair (minimum) wages for a decent standard of living.
  • stronger emphasis on health and long term care as necessary condition for ensuring equal opportunities.

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