Contributions to the discussion on the European Pillar of Social Rights

Thank you for the invitation to participate in this debate (link)

It is a great pleasure to do so and also to meet Mr Nicolas Schmit again

The questions that were posed for this debate concerned the gaps in the European Pillar of Social Rights and the challenges in its implementation

These questions involved potential contributions of the participants

In my short response, I would like to focus on three inter-related subjects. I would also like to try to make relatively concrete and novel proposals that may have some relevance for the action plan.

The three subjects are the following:

-labour market information

-social dialogue and social partners

-public employment services


The first subject, labour market information, is an area where there may be gaps in the pillar and also an area where academics and researchers like myself could contribute

The pillar correctly emphasises the importance of equal opportunities and access to the labour market. However, no reference is made to the provision of labour market information in this regard.

This information may concern the employment opportunities and wage levels that students or jobseekers may expect depending on their choice of education or training courses. This information would therefore support their choices and lead to better outcomes for all. This is particularly important at a time where labour markets may be changing rapidly.

This type of information can also be of great use for governments and education and training providers to improve the range and contents of the courses they offer.

Labour market information can also be used to develop statistical indicators around the 20 principles of the Pillar. These would be used to compare the extent to which the principles are gradually achieved across member states and over time.

These indicators could also greatly facilitate the monitoring and evaluation of different policies and programmes and even contribute to benchmarking and mutual learning across the EU.


The second subject I would like to raise here is about social partners and social dialogue. Social dialogue is a cornerstone of the European social model and it is fully appropriate that the several principles of the Pillar make reference to the role of social partners.

At the same time, it is important to be aware of the considerable differences in representativeness of the social partners across the EU. In Portugal, for instance, trade union density is estimated at 15% and falling. In some other member states, trade union density is even lower. Moreover, the distribution of unionised workers is typically very uneven across sectors and job types.

I believe this situation calls for a debate on the modernisation of employee (and employer) representation in Europe. Why is it that so many workers are not affiliated with trade unions (or worker’s councils)? Should there be more support for the modernisation of the existing trade unions and employers’ associations and the emergence of new social partners?

I believe that social dialogue can be an engine for economic growth, and economic growth is a key ingredient behind the promotion of sustainable social rights. More representative social partners can be very important in this process.


The third subject I wanted to raise is public employment services.

These public agencies are key operators behind the delivery of several of the principles of European Pillar. These include some areas that will be more directly recognisable as “European principles” by the general public. An important example is principle 4, which includes the Youth Guarantee.

However, again there are significant differences across member states in the ability of public employment services to deliver effectively and efficiently and therefore fully meet the goals of the European Pillar.

There is an important effort to be made in some countries so that their public employment services can catch up and get closer to the best performing PES in the EU. In this regard, further support from the EU would potentially be very welcome.

Some efforts are already taking place, including through the EU PES Network and its activities around bench-learning, for instance. EURES is also a very important tool. However, I think there is a case to be made for widening and strengthening of this support, taking place in a larger and more systematic way.

For instance, this could involve widening the remit of the new European Labour Authority to include public employment services as well. This could facilitate the provision of additional support to PES across the EU making sure that they are all better able to deliver on the ambitious goals of the European Pillar.


Thank you for your attention

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