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Remarks by Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis at the press conference on Improving the working conditions in platform work and on the Action plan for the social economy

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 9 december 2021.

Good afternoon everyone.

The world of work is changing rapidly, and workplaces with it.

That brings many opportunities, but also challenges and risks.

Online platform work is a good example.

Revenues in the EU's digital labour platform economy have risen almost fivefold in the last five years.

Today, more than 28 million people - mostly from younger generations - work through digital labour platforms across the EU. And by 2025, that number could reach 43 million.

Digital labour platforms bring great potential for innovation, new business models and flexible forms of work organisation.

They allow many people to make a living or supplement their income, including the more disadvantaged or vulnerable who may struggle to access the labour market.

For consumers, this means better access to products and services that would be otherwise hard to reach.

It means a new and more varied choice of services.

For many companies, it means the chance to develop new lines of business and reach more customers.

However, the digital transformation comes with its own challenges. New forms of work organisation do not automatically translate into quality jobs.

People involved in platform work can sometimes find themselves exposed to unsafe living and working conditions. These include:

  • misclassification of employment status;
  • health and safety risks;
  • poor access to social protection.

Platform workers deserve the same protection as anyone else under Europe's social model.

Today's package of proposals is there to address these issues.

Let me outline three principles of what we are proposing.

Firstly: misclassification of employment status.

Of the 28 million platform workers I mentioned, there may be up to 5.5 million whose contracts describe them as self-employed.

But in reality, they are regularly checked and supervised.

This effectively makes them employed workers.

They should have the labour and social rights that correspond to this status - such as working time and health protection, minimum wage, unemployment, sickness and old age benefits.

Our proposal addresses misclassification of these vulnerable workers and introduces the principle of a rebuttable presumption based on a range of control criteria.

Next: fairness and transparency.

Digital labour platforms use automated systems - algorithms - to match supply and demand for work. They support and can even replace managerial functions.

We address this relatively new phenomenon, which can have a significant impact on those working through the platforms.

Human monitoring should therefore be ensured, as well as the right to contest automated decisions.

Lastly, we want to increase the transparency and traceability of platform work.

That means enforcing the rules that apply to everyone working in this sector - including those platforms operating across borders.

This will support national authorities in upholding existing rights and obligations regarding social and working conditions.

It should also improve their awareness of which digital labour platforms are active in their country.

In short: digital platforms have massive potential.

They offer working flexibility. They create jobs, bring innovation and cater for what is clearly strong consumer demand.

However, people are at the heart of this business model.

They deserve the same protection and conditions as any other worker in any EU country, including access to collective bargaining and representation.

That is what we plan to provide and guarantee.

Even outside the platform economy, some self-employed people do not have the independence that usually comes with this status.

This applies essentially to people who work completely on their own and do not employ anyone else.

They can struggle even to have a say on their working conditions.

To give them better protection, the Commission is opening a public consultation on draft guidelines that are also linked - but not limited to - today's proposals on platform work.

They aim to ensure that EU competition law does not stand in the way of such people's efforts to negotiate collectively to improve working conditions. This should also give them more legal certainty.

Let me turn now to another important area that we are addressing today: the social economy. This sector is composed of a wide range of private entities: social enterprises, cooperatives, mutual benefit societies, associations and foundations across Europe.

Their economic activities have one main purpose: to provide goods and services to their members or the community at large. Profits come second.

More than 13 million people - about 6% of the EU's employees - work for them.

They are an engine for social innovation and inclusivity.

However, their economic and social potential is not being fully used.

That is why we are proposing today's action plan to promote the development of the social economy and use its potential to boost and cement the recovery.

We will work with Member States to improve the framework conditions for the social economy and launch a new Gateway to improve the access to EU funding and assistance.

On jobs, for example, while social enterprises are a major employer, their potential for creating employment is spread unevenly around EU countries.

They can also find it difficult to develop and scale up. This is often because they are not widely recognised or understood or because the right support mechanisms are not in place.

That means increasing the visibility of these organisations, removing obstacles that are holding them back and creating the right conditions for their growth.

It also means helping Member States with technical support, as well as funding from the European Social Fund Plus and other instruments. They can request this expertise for carrying out tailor-made reforms to support social economy entities locally.

Thank you and now I pass the floor to Nicolas.


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