Parliament adopts a more reactive and accessible European Globalisation Fund | News | European Parliament
To fight inequality and in-work poverty, MEPs call for a minimum wage, equal labour conditions for platform workers and a better work-life balance.
The principle that ‘work is the best remedy for poverty’ does not apply to low-wage sectors, and those working under precarious and atypical working conditions. MEPs therefore urge the Commission and member states to include the prevention of in-work poverty in their overall goal to end poverty in the EU.
European directive on minimum wage
MEPs welcome the Commission’s proposal for an EU directive on adequate minimum wages, describing it as an important step to ensure that everyone can earn a living from their work and participate in society. The directive should ensure that statutory minimum wages are, where applicable, always set above the poverty threshold, they stress.They also make clear that employers should not deduct the costs for carrying out work, such as accommodation, the requisite clothing, tools, personal protection and other equipment, from minimum wages.
Equal labour conditions for platform workers
The legislative framework on minimum working conditions must be enforced for all workers as another important element of the fight against in-work poverty, MEPs underline. This includes atypical or non-standard workers in the digital economy who often work in precarious conditions. These workers must also be covered by existing labour laws and social security provisions as well as being able to engage in collective bargaining, they add.
Work-life balanceTransposing and implementing the Work-Life Balance Directive is key to fighting poverty and inequality, MEPs say. Given that women are more at risk of poverty and social exclusion than men, tackling the gender pay gap and guaranteeing access to affordable and quality childcare are important steps in this respect.
The text was adopted with 365 votes in favour, 118 against and 208 abstentions.
“The EU is one of the wealthiest regions in the world. However, 95 million Europeans live at risk of poverty. For this reason alone, we need urgent action to ensure a life free from poverty for all. Across Europe, we need social minimum standards and strong social security systems. We need wages and income that allow for a decent living. We should not allow economic interests to override social protection”, said rapporteur Ӧzlem Demirel (GUE/NGL, DE)
According to Eurostat’s definition, individuals are at risk of in-work poverty when they work for over half the year and their yearly disposable income is below 60% of the national household median income level after social transfers. Eurostat figures show that 9.4% of European workers were at risk of poverty in 2018. Low wages have not increased at the same rate as other types of wages in many member states, exacerbating income inequalities and in-work poverty and reducing the capacity of low-wage earners to cope with financial difficulties.
On Thursday, Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement on the EU Social Fund+ that contributes to social inclusion, job opportunities and fighting poverty.
The new ESF +, part of the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027, will amount to €87 995 billion in 2018 prices.
Supporting youth and children at risk of poverty
According to the deal, EU countries where the number of children at a high risk of poverty is above the EU average will have to spend a minimum of 5% of the ESF+ resources on actions that contribute to children’s equal access to free healthcare, free education, free childcare, decent housing and adequate nutrition. Other member states also have to allocate part of their funds to beating child poverty.
All member states will have to address youth unemployment in their spending programmes, a problem that has been aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis. In countries where the number of young people currently not in employment, education or training (NEET-rate) is above the EU average, 12.5% of the fund will be spent on combating youth unemployment. These can be measures such as vocational education and training, in particular apprenticeships, and school-to-work transition.
Helping those who need it most
The Parliament negotiated to have a budget dedicated to combatting extreme poverty in each member state. At least 3% will be spent on those who need it most through food and basic material assistance or by addressing material deprivation, which is defined as an inability to pay for unexpected expenses, adequate heating, nutritious meals or durable goods.
Other measures agreed
“Today is a good day for Europe. We agreed to support workers, youth, children and students with almost €90 billion.
I am confident that this money will target those who really need it: people without a job, those who want to improve their skills, children in poverty, and youth who should be given all the opportunities to work, train and study. This is a clear example of how the European Union makes a concrete, positive impact in the lives of its citizens.”Rapporteur David Casa (EPP, MT)
Both Parliament as a whole and Council now have to endorse the agreement.
The European Social Fund has been investing in citizens for over 60 years. It contributes to social inclusion, job opportunities, fighting poverty, education, skills and the employability of young people, as well as in better living conditions, health and fairer societies. At the same time, the individual projects and programmes developed must contribute to improving economic, social and territorial cohesion.
The new ESF+ merges the existing European Social Fund (ESF), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), the Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD), the Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EaSI) and the EU Health Programme.
Parliament voted today to continue making additional resources available in 2021 and 2022 in order to provide food and basic assistance to the most deprived.
With 649 votes in favour, 7 against and 31 abstentions, Parliament approved the agreement to adapt the FEAD regulation that was reached with the member states in December last year.
The adapted regulation allows member states to continue to use the additional funds made available for post-COVID-19 recovery under the REACT-EU initiative in 2021 and 2022. Member states can choose to increase the resources provided in the FEAD regulation for food aid and other basic assistance for those most in need. In order to alleviate the current burden on public budgets, the additional resources will not be co-financed by member states and the Commission will provide pre-financing to further expedite delivery.
“This pandemic has had far-reaching consequences on people’s quality of life, especially on those who were vulnerable to begin with. More than 20% of all Europeans have seen their situation deteriorate. This fund will be the instrument to support them in finding their way out of poverty and back into society”, says rapporteur Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová on the agreement.
The Council must also approve the text formally. Once it has done so, the adopted measures will enter into force after publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.
The 3.8 billion EUR Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) was introduced in 2014 as an EU action to alleviate the worst forms of poverty and foster social cohesion in Europe. Around 13 million people benefit from the Fund each year, including approximately four million children. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences have exacerbated the situation of more than 20% of the EU population who are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, deepened social divisions, and increased job losses, unemployment rates and inequalities.
In order to complement the changes that the European economy is currently undergoing, clear objectives should be put in place to ensure social justice in the labour market. In a resolution that was adopted today by 380 votes in favour, 219 against and 97 abstentions, Parliament sets out its priorities for a strong social Europe for Just Transitions.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the precarity of some workers – particularly young people and women with low-skilled jobs – and has exposed the urgent need for adequate social protection and an inclusive employment policy.
Setting an ambitious “Porto 2030 Agenda”
In the resolution, MEPs call on member states and the European Commission to adopt an ambitious political agenda with mandatory indicators for social sustainability during the May 2021 EU Social Summit in Portugal. The so-called “Porto 2030 Agenda” should include targets and measures to guarantee decent work and wages, social justice and equal opportunities, robust social welfare systems, and fair labour mobility.
Furthermore, MEPs urge that the Porto Agenda should set concrete goals towards the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (ESPR), to ensure that social rights receive the same protection as economic freedoms in the single market.
Monitoring the progress of social recovery
To mitigate the social repercussions of COVID-19, member states should make full use of the available flexibility for public finances and fiscal policies. Investments made under NextGenerationEU and the Recovery Fund should support social equality as much as economic and environmental objectives. To this end, member states should submit Social Progress Plans (SPP) alongside the existing National Recovery plans and national Climate and Energy plans, says the resolution.
Agnes Jongerius (S&D, NL): “In what what kind of Europe do we want to live in 10 years’ time? I want to live in a Europe where all workers earn a living wage, all families can afford housing, and no child has to grow up in poverty.
Recommendations are simply not enough to get there. EU governments and the Commission must commit to concrete mandatory targets to be reached by 2030, such as halving youth unemployment, equal pay, and more affordable social housing.”
Dennis Radtke (EPP, DE) added: “Climate change change and digitisation will challenge an entire generation. They will inevitably lead structural change, which must be shaped in a socially acceptable and just way. This can only work if we protect and support both our industry and our workers.
Our report proposes clearly defined targets for a socially just transition to a greener and more digital economy. We expect the EU Commission to take our proposals into account in its action plan for the next EU Social Summit in Porto 2021.”
In January 2020, the European Commission published a communication on A strong social Europe for just transitions ahead of the implementation plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). The EPSR is a list of 20 key principles and rights for fair and effective labour markets and welfare systems in the 21st century, which all EU institutions signed up to in 2017. The communication led to a broad discussion with institutions, social stakeholders, and citizens.
In January 2021, the European Commission will publish an action plan for the implementation of the EPSR.
Outside working hours, workers must be allowed to switch off digital devices without facing consequences, the Employment Committee agreed.
In a resolution adopted on Tuesday with 31 votes in favour, 6 votes against and 18 abstentions, Employment Committee MEPs say that EU countries must ensure that workers are able to exercise the right to disconnect effectively, including by means of collective agreements. They point out that this right is vital to protect workers’ health.
The culture of being “always on” and the growing expectation that workers should be reachable at any time can negatively affect work-life balance, physical and mental health, and well-being, the Employment Committee asserts.
They call on the Commission to propose an EU Directive on the Right to Disconnect, since this right is not explicitly enshrined in EU law . MEPs also stress that being able to switch off from work should be a fundamental right , permitting workers to refrain from work-related tasks and electronic communication outside working hours without facing any repercussions .
The non-legislative resolution is expected to be voted on in a plenary session in January 2021. Once endorsed by Parliament, it will be put forward to the Commission and EU countries for implementation as part of future regulatory decisions.
According to Eurofound, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, over a third of EU workers now work from home . There is currently no European legal framework directly defining and regulating the right to switch off. The widespread use of digital tools and information and communication technologies (ICT) makes it possible to work from anywhere, at any time.
These technologies can have harmful consequences, extending working hours, blurring boundaries between work and private life, and contributing to some types of “work nomadism”, all exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.