European employment law: new direction in social policy

The process of creating a “unified” European employment sphere is subject to some “complications”: the responsibility for employment and social policies lays with the EU member states. The EU institutions’ efforts are mostly those of coordination, supporting and monitoring the implementation of the EU recommendations. However, recent years have seen some new moves towards more active efforts in regulating “common employment” issues combining political and legal instruments.

The EU-wide regulations concerning employment issues in the member states consist of policy’s directions and legal means. All those regulatory measures, generally, are aimed at implementation of the EU’s social market concept and at closer regulatory room between the EU institutions and the member states governance. The coordinated measures are of varied scope, including living and working conditions, skills and qualifications, health and safety at work, pensions, etc.

Policy guidelines in employment
In the policy measures, the EU institutions and bodies are devising the following actions:
= EU’s employment strategy, EES. The strategy dates back to 1997, when the EU states for the first time started to create a set of common objectives and targets for employment policy with the main aim to create more and better jobs in the EU states. Presently the EES is an integral part of the EU-wide development strategy and is implemented through the European semester, an annual process promoting close policy coordination among the states and EU Institutions.
Source: https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/eu-economic-governance-monitoring-prevention-correction/european-semester_en

In particular, the implementation of the EES – supported by the work of the Employment Committee (an advisory committee for Employment and Social Affairs Ministers in the Employment and Social Affairs Council to promote the coordination of employment and labour market at the EU and national level) – presently is an integral part of the EU growth strategy.
More on the Employment Committee: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=115&langId=en

The EES implementation involves four steps, mainly through the so-called European Semester:
1. European employment guidelines as common priorities and targets for employment policies proposed by the Commission, agreed by national governments and adopted by the EU Council.
2. Joint employment report based on: a) the assessment of the employment situation in EU-27, b) the implementation of the employment guidelines, and c) an assessment of the Scoreboard of key employment and social indicators. It is published by Commission and adopted by the EU Council.
3. National Reform Programmes, NRPs which are submitted for further analyses by the Commission for compliance with the “Europe 2020” guidelines.
See info on European Semester and NRPs in: https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/eu-economic-governance-monitoring-prevention-correction/european-semester_en#map
4. Commission’s publications of the member states’ reports, analysing the states’ economic policies and country-specific recommendations, based on the assessment of the NRPs. On EU’s employment strategy: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=101

= Living and working in another EU states: formally, it is the EU citizens’ right to live and work in another EU state through the so-called “labour mobility”. The Commission and other EU institutions/bodies are just obliged to facilitate and coordinate national security systems. The Commission’s website on employment, social security and inclusion provides information on the rights of workers moving within the EU and the other rights linked to it, as well as on the restrictions that apply to workers from the countries that joined the EU more recently. With some details these conditions apply for temporarily sent workers by the employer to carry out work in another state as so-called “posted workers”.
More in: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=25&langId=en
According to the EU intra-mobility report (2020) there were about 18 million “movers” with about 13 million of working age (persons’ working age in the EU is between 20 and 64 years); the number of workers grew by only 1.2% in 2019, which was considerably less than the 3.4% in 2018, largely due to strong decreases of movers in the UK.
Presently, without the UK, the total amount of working-age EU-movers in 2019 was 10.4 million, a 3.2% increase on 2018; about half of EU movers (46%) reside in the UK or Germany, and a further 28% in France, Italy and Spain. As to “sending countries”, Romania, Poland, Italy,
Portugal and Bulgaria are the main states for 58% of movers; stocks for two largest countries of origin (Poland and Romania), increased at 4% each compared to 2018. Active EU-27 movers constitute 4.2% of the total labour force in the EU-27; the share of active EU-movers in the total work force is 3.7%.
The main sectors of activity for EU-movers were manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade, employing 15% and 12% of EU-28 movers, respectively, with 16% and 13% of nationals. The share of high-skilled EU-movers increased recently: e.g. in 2019, one in three (34%) movers was high-skilled, compared to one in four in 2008. Persons are most likely to move at the beginning of their careers, and the likelihood of moving decreases with age. See the EU report’s findings in: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=25&furtherNews=yes&newsId=9877

= Social affairs issues. The EU provides common rules to protect citizens’ social security rights when moving within Europe (EU 27 + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The rules on social security coordination do not replace national systems with a single European one: thus all states are free to decide who is to be insured under their legislation, which benefits are granted and under what conditions. There are four main principles in social protection:
1. Citizens are covered by the legislation of one country at a time; workers have to pay social contributions only in one country. The decision on which country’s legislation applies in a person in question is made by the social security institutions.
2. Citizens are having the same rights and obligations as the nationals of the resident country; it is known as the principle of equal treatment or non-discrimination.
3. In claiming a social benefit, the worker’s previous periods of insurance, as well as work or residence in other EU states are taken into account, if necessary.
4. If a person is entitled to a cash benefit from one country, he/she may generally receive it even living in a different country; this is known as the principle of exportability.
Reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=849&langId=en
More on labour legislation in: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=851&langId=en

= Skills and qualifications. In order to reduce the “skills gap”, the EU seeks to match relevant skills with the right at the moment jobs by funding up-skilling and re-skilling by bringing together the corporate interests and educators. Presently, people need to be equipped with a variety of skills ranging from basic skills, such as literacy, numeracy and digital, to vocational or technical skills, as well as entrepreneurial and transversal skills, such as foreign languages and/or or personal development, and “learning to learn”, etc.
General reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=1146
The EU has adopted so-called “pact for skills” providing possibilities to apply for a scholarship from national employment bodies to retrain in IT support by completing a Google career certificate. Google is working with partners among the EU member states to help people learn new skills to suit the future of work: after more than five years in digital training more than nine million people in EU-27 have been re-trained. After two years in action of the European Commission’s Pact for Skills (presented in 2020), it provided in-demand training, investing in public-private sector partnerships and working hand-in-hand with employers to ensure digital skills training directly translates into jobs, etc.
More in: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=1517
As was mentioned before, education and training is the competence of the member states: thus, national and regional labour markets and education systems are preparing their own education and training systems. However, as the EU states are facing common challenges, their training systems share similar problems and solutions; that is why the EU initiatives for skills aim to mobilise the states’ efforts along the following lines of action: a) skills for jobs, b) “working together”, and c) helping people to develop skills throughout their lives.
To implement these initiatives, the European Skills Agenda (July 2020) sets out a five year action plan with 12 actions to help equip people in Europe with better skills.
See the actions in: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1223&langId=en
The EU financial support and funding (totaled over € 80 bn) helps to put national policy designs into practice through the following programs and funds; see e.g. the following web-links: European Social Fund, Erasmus+, Youth Employment Initiative, European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), Horizon 2020, EU Program for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), and COSME.
Besides, there are other issues in coordinated employment by the EU with the states: health and safety at work, pensions’ arrangements, as well as reform support in the labour market and social protection.
General reference to: https://ec.europa.eu/info/topics/employment-and-social-affairs_en

Legal aspects in employment policy
In the legal sense, the European employment, social affairs and equal opportunities policies aim at improving peoples’ living conditions by promoting employment, sustainable growth and greater social cohesion. The EU is a catalyst in social change, seeking to increase employment and worker mobility, improve the quality of jobs and working conditions, inform and consult workers, combat poverty and social exclusion, promote equal opportunities and combat discrimination, as well as modernise social protection systems.
Besides, the European employment strategy and other issues mentioned above, the following sectoral laws are included into the EU employment law:
= Labour law. It includes such vital legal documents as Charter of Fundamental Rights (as part of the EU Treaties), regulations on professions, Services Directive, protection of specific categories of workers, and workers’ conditions. Reference to: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/summary/chapter/17.html?expand=1717#arrow_1717
= Protection against discrimination at work, which includes rights of persons with disabilities, equal treatment for women and men, and work-time balance.
= Social inclusion and protection: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/summary/chapter/17.html?expand=1719#arrow_1719
= Social dialogue and employee participation. See more in: https://www.integrin.dk/2020/10/09/labour-movement-in-european-integration-facing-modern-challenges/
General reference to: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/summary/chapter/employment_and_social_policy.html?root_default=SUM_1_CODED%3D17

 

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