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Remarks by Commissioner Schmit on the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan and Effective Active Support to Employment following the COVID-19 crisis

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 4 maart 2021.

Thank you very much Valdis for this introduction.

So, why do we need an Action Plan to implement the Pillar of Social Rights? Firstly, because European citizens expect and want action.

  • A Eurobarometer published this week showed that 88% of Europeans say social issues matter to them personally.
  • 71% of people surveyed said that a lack of social rights is a serious problem right now.
  • And when asked what was the most important element for the EU's economic and social development, their top answers were equal opportunities, access to the labour market, fair working conditions and access to quality health care.

These are issues that affect all of us and they are addressed by the Pillar of Social Rights and the Action Plan that makes very concrete proposals.

The Action Plan we are presenting to you now turns the 20 Principles of the Pillar into Actions. We are breathing new life into it by proposing concrete actions. This is a continuous process as we have already started the implementation of the Pillar: minimum wages, skills agenda, youth employment and platform work.

We have to bring Europe closer to the concerns of its citizens. Our aim is to positively impact the lives of millions of Europeans.

Later today you will hear from my colleagues Vera Jourova and Helena Dalli about an initiative under Principle 2: Gender Equality and yesterday we presented the strategy for persons with disabilities, which comes under Principle 17 directly but all the other principles as well.

As we gradually start to move out of the health crisis in the coming months, it is essential to give a very strong political signal to all Europeans that the EU is concerned for their livelihoods, their jobs, and their well-being. We need a longer term, concrete and comprehensive approach how we want to shape social policies in a context of deep economic, technological and demographic transformations.

We did not draft the Action Plan in a vacuum: we carried out a very wide consultation. All the contributions - as well as the very insightful report of the European Parliament - have helped us shape it.

As Valdis has said the Action Plan comprises EU actions - some already started, and some coming up - as well as setting 3 headline targets for the EU to be achieved by 2030.

  • At least 78% of people aged 20 to 64 should be in employment
  • At least 60% of all adults should participate in training every year
  • The number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion should be reduced by at least 15 million.

But we do not simply set targets and objectives and leave it at that. The Action Plan - and indeed EASE - provide clear tools and policy measures for how to achieve these goals. This committed method, that Jacques Delors believed in, precisely consists in setting clear objectives defining the tools, the resources and establishing a timeframe. The monitoring of the implementation has also to be improved through a strong European Semester steering the reforms and the investments notably on the basis of a revised version of the Social Scoreboard.

Our objectives are ambitious - especially considering we are still in the midst of a crisis - but we believe they are achievable if Member States commit themselves. They should be achieved to make the Europe more competitive, more resilient and more fair.

Why do we think that Member States will commit ? Because the European Council has said it wants to put social issues at the top of its agenda. Because there is a general understanding that economic and social aspects must go hand in hand for an inclusive and long-lasting recovery. And because citizens are demanding it.

Now turning to EASE, or the Recommendation on Effective Active Support to Employment. This is a direct response to Principle 4 of the Pillar. EASE provides guidance for Member States to accompany labour market transitions from declining to expanding sectors, including green and digital, so they can keep people in jobs.

It aims to guide Member States in how to help companies and people ease into job transitions.

The three policy measures we are recommending are:

  • time-limited hiring and transition incentives and support to entrepreneurship and apprenticeships;
  • upskilling and reskilling opportunities such as short-duration training courses to upskill inactive young people; and
  • enhanced and personalised support by employment services.

Because we have to recover from a crisis, and major transitions are still ahead, we need a labour market policy that favours mobility, gives all workers the best possible opportunity, creates quality jobs and helps companies to find the best skilled people. An active employment policy is a core element for an inclusive, fair and innovative European economy and society.

As well as the policy measures we suggest, EASE also states clearly what EU funding opportunities Member States have, not only with the European Social Fund and others, but also the Recovery and Resilience Facility (if the measures meet the criteria).

The final point I would make is that of course the EU cannot do it all alone. Delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights is a shared responsibility for the EU institutions, national, regional and local authorities, social partners and civil society.

I really insist on social dialogue : collective bargaining and collective agreements are at the core of a social market economy.

And as you know on the 7th of May there will be a Social Summit in Porto where all actors will come together and give a fresh impetus to social rights. Whether it is in person or virtual, it marks a very important moment for Europe's social rulebook.

Thank you.


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