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Statement by Commissioner Nicolas Schmit ahead of International Workers' Day

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 30 april 2021.

Ahead of International Workers' Day, Commissioner Nicolas Schmit made the following statement:

"Tomorrow, as we mark International Workers' Day, we take pause to think about the millions of people who have seen their lives and livelihoods disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.

So far, governments have managed to preserve jobs and contain a surge in unemployment. Short-time work schemes, supported through the EU's SURE instrument, have kept people in jobs and preserved families' incomes. Even so, many workers, and especially the young generation, have seen their career prospects put at risk: some of them for the second time over the span of a decade, affected also by the financial crisis ten years ago.

While the crisis is certainly not over yet, we see reason for hope, and we believe that Europe will emerge stronger from this crisis. Solidarity has been the hallmark of the European crisis response and this must continue as we embark on the road to recovery. We have a responsibility to support employment and create opportunities for all. This is also what people expect from us: 9 in 10 Europeans say that a social Europe is important to them personally.

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan presents our ambition for a strong social Europe that is inclusive and fair. It proposes EU-level targets for more and better jobs, skills and equality, social protection and inclusion, and it calls on Member States to turn the principles of the Pillar into actions. The action plan has a 2030 horizon, but our work has already started. While Member States should maintain job-retention schemes as long as they are needed, we will also support people in transitioning into new jobs and promising sectors, including the green and digital ones. This is why the Commission adopted EASE, our Recommendation to Member States on job creation.

As we are preparing for Europe's recovery, we must also look at the bigger picture. Major trends, such as digitalisation, have accelerated beyond what we could have imagined before the crisis. Our European Skills Agenda is about equipping people with the right skills to thrive in the world of tomorrow. With our Youth Employment Support initiative, we encourage Member States to invest in young people, so they have the chance to thrive in the world of work, and we provide funding for these investments.

In the recovery from this crisis, next to the right skills, we also need quality jobs. Almost 10% of workers in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. People who have a job should not be struggling to make ends meet. We proposed an EU Directive on adequate minimum wages so that everyone can earn a decent living. We also need to look at gender equality. Many women are still paid less than men even though they do the same job. Our initiative on pay transparency is designed to ensure equal opportunities, turning principles 2 and 3 of the Pillar into reality.

It is clear that in a post COVID-19 world, our workplaces will look different than before. Many people will continue teleworking at least part-time. While this has its benefits, we should also be aware of the risks. As the boundaries between professional and private life become blurred, it can be difficult to keep a healthy work-life balance.

Finally, digital labour platforms are revolutionising the labour market, also in Europe, playing an important role in ensuring access to services in the midst of the lockdowns. We are looking into this closely to make the most of the job-creating potential that comes with digital labour platforms, while ensuring dignity, respect and protection for the people that work through them.

The pandemic, along with major societal, technological and economic developments, have put the European social fabric to the test. We have also seen the support we can provide by joining our efforts in solidarity. The Commission will continue working together with all partners - the European Parliament, Member States, social partners, and civil society - to ensure that the recovery will be a fair, inclusive and resilient one."

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