EU Employment and Social Policy Ministers discussed the economic recovery plan and the demographic challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the videoconference organised by the Croatian Presidency.
Today's videoconference, jointly chaired by the Minister of Labour and Pension System Josip Aladrović and the Minister for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy, Assoc. Prof. PhD Vesna Bedeković, focused on possible economic recovery strategies, with an emphasis on the labour market and social measures, as well as on demographic challenges.
The conference was organised with the participation of the Commission Vice President for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica, Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit, and EU Social Partners.
Economic recovery strategies
Ministers presented different national measures that had already been taken, as well as those they plan to introduce: temporary short-time work schemes and lay-offs measures, deferred or reduced tax payments of SMEs, publicly guaranteed loans to companies, temporary suspension of professional taxes, loans and rents for the self-employed, and support to seasonal workers in tourism and agriculture.
"Although all of the measures already taken are comprehensive and considerably effective, we can all agree that additional efforts and an even stronger response will be needed to achieve full recovery of our economies. EU funding can play a crucial role in that process and therefore we must cooperate to implement financial mechanisms that will incorporate all our needs and specificities."
Josip Aladrovic, Minister of Labour and Pension System of Croatia
In this regard, the Commission stressed that it is important to speed up the process and find agreement on SURE instrument by 1 June, and that the role of social partners is important and joint approach is needed.
"The recovery from the socioeconomic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic will require unprecedented effort and coordination amongst Member States. It must be geared towards a more resilient, fair and sustainable Union, one that has people at its heart. EU health and safety standards must be fully respected. In these endeavours, the European Pillar of Social Rights remains our compass."
Nicholas Schmit, Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights
Anticipating the finalisation of the European Commission Report on the Impact of Demographic Change, the participants also exchanged views on how to best tackle the demographic challenges Member States are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ministers emphasized the need to implement sound strategies at all levels of governance in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on demography, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable groups such as the elderly. All Member States must work together to make the most affected areas attractive for younger generation.
"Croatia has chosen demography as one of the main priorities of its Presidency and now it is more than evident that this topic is of great importance. All Member States are confronted with some kind of demographical challenge and the COVID-19 pandemic makes all these challenges even more significant. In order to formulate appropriate solutions, now is the right time to act decisively. Having in mind all the actual issues, I believe we can all agree, it is indeed important for the Commission’s Report to be published as soon as possible, so we could address the demographic changes in a most appropriate way.”
Vesna Bedekovic, Minister for Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy of Croatia
The outcome of the ministerial discussion will provide useful input for the finalization of the Commission Report on the impact of demographic change and set the tone for future debates and policies at EU level.
Commission’s Report on demographic changes
European Commission highlighted that it has been preparing a Report on demographic changes that will offer a cross-section of the demographic situation at EU level and that it is also planned to offer answers to the current demographic situation, in context of COVID-19, through Green paper on ageing and the EU strategy for rural areas.
They also stressed that every third European lives in a region, which encounters a decrease in the number of inhabitants, mainly rural areas.
"The European Commission is committed to continue its efforts to help Europe's societies and economy get back to a normal functioning and to sustainable and inclusive growth. The Report on the impact of demographic change plays an important role in the aftermath of the corona crisis, in launching follow-up policy initiatives on ageing and on rural areas and in offering support to the long-term recovery."
Dubravka Suica, Vice President for Democracy and Demography
Furthermore, they emphasized that not all are affected the same way. It is important to protect the youth and therefore Commission will soon propose Updated Youth Guarantee and is preparing the initiative on Child Guarantee and common standards on minimum income.
This was the second videoconference of Employment and Social Policy Ministers, as the first one was organised on 19 March, when ministers discussed the measures to mitigate the negative employment and social consequences of the COVID - 19 pandemic.