EAPN presents its position paper on Inclusive Labour Markets. It sets out our understanding of inclusive labour markets, detailing the elements needed to make them a reality for both the supply and the demand side, and puts forward the perspective of our members, including people experiencing poverty and social exclusion in Europe and the civil society organisations that represent them. It puts forward specific recommendations – for the EU & national levels – to guarantee targeted efforts to support specific groups into quality, sustainable employment, thus promoting pathways to inclusion.
This is a particularly relevant discussion, at a time when the employment and poverty-reduction targets of Europe 2020 seem to be at odds. The employment objective of the Strategy is too often approached as a play on statistics, with many Governments trying for too long to meet the numbers without addressing the impact on quality of work and employment, on the economy overall, on societies, and on people’s lives. Gender discrimination, unhealthy or stressful physical environments, increased work intensity, irregular working schedules, work during alleged free-time, and concentration at the lower end of the income distribution are key aspects that characterize bad quality of work throughout Europe.
It builds on extensive work done by EAPN members on the quality of work and employment and in support of living wages, previous EAPN publications, and EAPN’s positioning and responses to recent European initiatives such as the Long Term Unemployment Recommendation, and the European Pillar of Social Rights. Furthermore, it builds on in-depth discussions held in EAPN’s EU Inclusion Strategies Group, including a dedicated session in October 2016, as well as conclusions from the European Meetings of People Experiencing Poverty. It incorporates views, stories, and recommendations building on our national members’ work on the ground, supporting directly those furthest from the labour market, and actively engaging with policies shaping the interaction between people experiencing poverty and the world of work.
Recommendations for the EU level
- Mainstream the full implementation of Active Inclusion principles into the Europe 2020 Strategy, and monitor it through explicit integration in the European Semester processes.
- Ensure that the European Pillar of Social Rights actively supports quality, inclusive labour markets, through new legal frameworks and effective benchmarking, defending employment and social rights and social standards.
- Devise a European definition of quality of work, with clear indicators, and fully integrate it in the European Performance Monitor and the Joint Assessment Framework.
- Introduce sub-targets for the employment target of Europe 2020 Strategy, to ensure that those furthest from the labour market are reached, and that the overall objective is not met while endangering the poverty target of the same Strategy.
- Conduct thematic peer reviews in the framework of mutual learning and support the exchange, follow-up and mainstreaming of best practices regarding the implementation of the inclusive labour markets pillar of the Active Inclusion Strategy.
- Adopt and implement a strengthened Anti-Discrimination Directive, to cover all discrimination grounds, including socio-economic status.
- Invest in inclusive labour markets also from the demand side, ensuring that quality jobs are created through, for example, the European Fund for Strategic Investment and Structural Funds, and that pro-active strategies are in place to increase access to these jobs for excluded groups.
- Ensure that relevant stakeholders, including civil society organisations, are equal partners in the design, implementation, and delivery of policies associated to the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Pillar of Social Rights, and other similar initiatives, and support this partnership with clear guidelines and adequate resources.
Recommendations for the national level
- Ensure access to resources to leas dignified lives for all, throughout the lifecycle, including adequate unemployment insurance, minimum income schemes, and other income support, as a human right and not as a lever to push people into jobs through punitive conditionality.
- Build the capacity of Public Employment Services, as well as welfare offices, to deal with complex and delicate personal situations, promoting personalised, pathway approaches based on individual needs assessment.
- Increase the investment in the provision of essential flanking services, such as childcare and care for other dependents, care provisions, ensuring affordability, quality, and equal coverage, and promote better integration across services including training and education.
- Step up public social investment in quality and sustainable job creation, rather than relying on the market to supply them, and ensure they are accessible to disadvantaged groups.
- Set in place comprehensive criteria for job quality, in accordance with European and international standards, and make them enforceable in active labour market policies, and establish positive hierarchies between minimum income (set at least at the level of the poverty line, and observing the reference budgets methodology), unemployment benefits, and minimum wage, to ensure that everybody has access to a life in dignity; don’t decouple wages from inflation in an effort to link them to productivity.
- Combat discrimination by employers and by society at large by implementing anti-discrimination legislation and promoting pro-active measures to foster diversity, and monitor enforcement to ensure compliance.
- Set up mechanisms for regular consultation and structured dialogue with job seekers, the unemployed, people experiencing poverty, and the organisations representing them, linked to the European Semester processes, but not only.