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For a social Europe!

“High employment rates and signs of improvement for the youth”, this is how the European Commission advertises the current Quarterly Report on Employment and Social Developments in the EU. The Commission far too often paints a too rosy picture of the economic and social development in Europe. However, from the AK’s point of view, additional efforts have to be made at European level to ensure that the increased growth and employment rates also improve people’s working and living conditions.

In its Quarterly Report on Employment and Social Developments, the European Commission gives an overview of the most recent developments in the social sector and labour markets of the EU. Employment trends and the economic power of the Member States are being analysed.

The recent Quarterly Report shows continuous employment growth in almost all Member States. Compared to the same period of last year, the employment rate in the EU rose by 1.5 % in the second quarter of 2017. In comparison to the previous year, the number of jobs in the EU increased by 3.5 million. This means that 235.4 million people in the EU are now in work – as many as never before. Compared to the third quarter of 2014, this increase in the EU even amounted to 8 million new jobs (5.6 million of which in the euro area). According to the Quarterly Report, economic growth continues in all Member States and last year reached 2.4 % in the EU. Based on this, the unemployment rate also fell by 0.9 % — however, at overall 7.6 % and 16.9 % for young people it still remains worryingly high.

From the AK's point of view, more efforts need to be made at European level to ensure that all people benefit from raised employment and growth rates. It has to be ensured that employment growth is not based on short-term or atypical employment; every person in Europe should have access to a fairly paid job. Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility declared: “We need to continue on this path and improve the economic and social conditions for all. With the European Pillar of Social Rights, we have our roadmap towards well-functioning and fair labour markets that are fit for purpose in the 21st century.”

However, whether the European Pillar of Social Rights will be able to keep this promise by the Commission remains uncertain. The Social Pillar was supposed to become the social prestige project of the EU Commission under Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. However, from the AK’s point of view, the draft for the Pillar was far from meeting these expectations. Neither in the recommendation of the Commission nor in its recommended proclamation of the European Council are new binding and enforceable social rights to be created. The draft limits itself to only already existing rights and principles, which remain legally non-binding and which, apart from that are often formulated in very general terms. Currently, negotiations are being held between the European Parliament and the Member States. The intention is to proclaim the Pillar at the Social Summit in Gothenburg on 17 November 2017.

The AK uses the discussion to back a social change of course in the EU. Binding social minimum standards could be implemented at once in form of Directives and ensure that all people in Europe benefit from an increased economic growth. A social progress protocol could ensure that social fundamental rights would have priority over economic freedoms and regulatory competition. Apart from that, the fight against social and wage dumping must also continue to be at the centre of the European Agenda.

Together with realignment towards a balanced wealth-oriented economic policy, which questions restrictive fiscal rules and provides Member States with more room for manoeuvre for future-oriented investments, it might be possible to strengthen the social dimension of the EU. The AK will continue its efforts in Brussels to ensure that European policy in general and the Social Pillar in particular will bring concrete improvements for the working and living conditions of the people in Europe instead of disappointing many expectations by paying only lip service.

Further information:

Quarterly Review on Employment and Social Developments

Social Rights First!

AK Position paper on the European Pillar of Social Rights

AK EUROPE: Die European Pillar of Social Rights: Social commitment as a means to an end?

AK EUROPE: Commission recognises necessity to invest

A “social pillar” with many question marks: Why symbolic politics embedded in contradictions is not enough to achieve a change of course in the EU

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