DATE DE PUBLICATION 04/11/2021

Increasing Solidarity in Europe – Nicolas Schmit, European commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights

The European Commission is preparing an Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. After the crisis, is it still urgent to accelerate social reforms?

The emergency already existed before the crisis. Over the past decade, some flattering economic indicators have masked a rise of inequality – these issues were inherited from the previous crisis. The new European Commission then placed digital and green transformation at the center of its priorities. While this digital and green transition creates jobs, it requires a considerable effort in professional training, especially in new technologies. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated these pre-existing trends. In the short term, the projections are alarming for the climate if we do not drastically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The challenges are colossal, the development of skills is crucial if we want to avoid massive and structural unemployment. The situation also amplifies inequalities and the risks of poverty. There is therefore a legitimate expectation to rebuild with more social justice. The young generations are the first victims of this crisis in terms of employment, education but also social life. Not only there is a risk of producing a new lost generation but also a desperate one.

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan must set the course to avoid a real social crisis. Investment must create new jobs through digital and green technologies. There is a need for mobilization at all levels and social economy actors should play an important role.

How does this Action Plan concern the Social Economy (SE) world?

SE enterprises are pursuing the same objectives as the Action Plan to implement the Pillar, including social cohesion, the creation of quality jobs, sustainable development, the struggle against social inequalities and the protection of the most vulnerable. The economy and society must be reconciled, which means, as President Ursula von der Leyen said, “an economy that works for people”.
The Action Plan includes an initiative in favor of the SE. These enterprises that have been often hard-hit by the crisis and must therefore be supported, will contribute to the economic recovery and its inclusiveness. We propose to strengthen the resilience of the sector, by helping its professionalization, its development, its visibility and by improving its access to financing and access to market.

You recently said that it was time “to have a reflection on the social value of work”. How can we transform the models in Europe?

The question of the value and dignity of work has been raised for a long time already. Precariousness is spreading and affects in particular the youth. The pandemic taught us that women often occupy jobs that are essential for the functioning of society. Yet, they are less paid and their working conditions are often difficult. They need to be revalued. More broadly, we need more social convergence in Europe.

The European Commission’s proposal on minimum wages aims to raise low wages in Europe and to reduce the increase in numbers of working poor, among other things. The end of the crisis should be the time to rebuild a new social contract. This Action Plan must include very concrete solutions while redesigning the European social model where economic success goes hand in hand with social and ecological progress

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