On 6 October 2020, EFEE attended the online conference “Leaving no one behind and striving for more: Fairness and solidarity in the EU social market economy”, organized by the European Commission. The conference discussed the main findings of the same-titled Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) 2020 report, following a first discussion at an online seminar on 15 September 2020, and facilitated panel discussions on their impact and relevance in the context of the Covid-19 crisis and in view of the Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The ESDE report is prepared annually by the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL), providing up-to-date data on economic and social developments in Europe and discussing EU-wide policy initiatives. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the ESDE 2020 was developed against the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis and therewith arising challenges for the labour market.

The conference was opened by Mr. Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, and the representative for the German Presidency, Mr. Rolf Schmachtenberger, State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Employment and Social Affairs. In their opening address, Commissioner Schmit and Mr. Schmachtenberger both agreed that the pandemic has triggered deep long-lasting social economic changes, increasing the risk of social inequalities and exclusion within European societies. In this regard, specifically low-income groups, including women, single parents, children and low-skilled workers such as migrants, would suffer most considering their already limited access to services before the crisis. In light of this, both Commissioner Schmit and Mr. Schmachtenberger concluded that Europe’s recovery and transformation plan needs to be based on the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights: inclusive and sustainable growth, solidarity and fairness. Against the backdrop of these principles, policy measure being taken so far were elaborated in the thereafter following panels.

The subsequent panels and parallel thematic sessions were composed of key stakeholders from, among others, the European Commission, the German Presidency and the cross-sectoral social partners. In order to build more resilient welfare states, the panelists agreed that solidarity measures being taken so far such as the minimum wages, the European Skills Agenda, short-time work schemes have proven to be effective. However, due to a lack of data and financial means, a long-term commitment to these measures on the side of Member States would be at risk. Consequently, the panelists strongly spoke up for the strengthening of the social dialogue and the creation of a greater synergy between funds and policy measures. The role of social partners and social dialogue was highlighted as being extremely useful and important when it comes to fairness in the workplace,

The conference was closed by Joost Korte, Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at DG EMPL, who concluded that investment in skills and education is now more than ever crucial for the recovery of the EU (analysis of years and years of EU semester). We now have a crisis and funds available and we need to apply these funds to where they are most necessary, as shown in instruments such as the EU Semester.

For more details, please contact isaline.ossieur@educationemployers.eu

©Feature Image: by DG EMPL, Flicker (CC license)