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Wednesday, 14 March 2018 - Strasbourg Final edition
European Semester for economic policy coordination: employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2018

European Parliament resolution of 14 March 2018 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: employment and social aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2018 (2017/2260(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 3 and 5 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to Articles 9, 145, 148, 152, 153, 174 and 349 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement of 13 April 2016 on Better Law-Making between the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission(1),

–  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and, in particular, to its Title IV (Solidarity),

–  having regard to the revised European Social Charter,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, notably 1, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 10,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights on 17 November 2017 in Gothenburg,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 November 2017 entitled ‘Annual Growth Survey 2018’ (COM(2017)0690),

–  having regard to the draft Joint Employment Report from the Commission and the Council of 22 November 2017 accompanying the communication from the Commission on the Annual Growth Survey 2018 (COM(2017)0674),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 22 November 2017 for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (COM(2017)0677),

–  having regard to the Commission recommendation of 22 November 2017 for a Council recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area (COM(2017)0770),

–  having regard to the Commission report of 22 November 2017 entitled ‘Alert Mechanism Report 2018’ (COM(2017)0771),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 22 November 2017 entitled ‘2018 Draft Budgetary Plans: Overall Assessment’ (COM(2017)0800),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 April 2017 entitled ‘Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights’ (COM(2017)0250),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 26 April 2017 entitled ‘An initiative to support work-life balance for working parents and carers’ (COM(2017)0252),

–  having regard to the Commission staff working document of 26 April 2017 entitled ‘Taking stock of the 2013 Recommendation on “Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage”’ (SWD(2017)0258),

–  having regard to the Commission’s publication of the seventh edition of the Employment and Social Developments in Europe annual review (2017), which focuses on intergenerational fairness and solidarity in Europe,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 4 October 2016 entitled ‘The Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative three years on’ (COM(2016)0646),

–  having regard to the Commission proposal of 14 September 2016 for a Council regulation amending Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 1311/2013 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2014-2020 (COM(2016)0604),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 14 September 2016 entitled ‘Strengthening European Investments for jobs and growth: Towards a second phase of the European Fund for Strategic Investments and a new European External Investment Plan’ (COM(2016)0581),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 10 June 2016 entitled ‘A new skills agenda for Europe – Working together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness’ (COM(2016)0381),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 2 June 2016 entitled ‘A European agenda for the collaborative economy’ (COM(2016)0356),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 1 June 2016 entitled ‘Europe investing again – Taking stock of the Investment Plan for Europe and next steps’ (COM(2016)0359),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 8 March 2016 on launching a consultation on a European Pillar of Social Rights (COM(2016)0127) and its annexes,

–  having regard to the Commission proposal for a Council decision of 15 February 2016 on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States (COM(2016)0071), and to Parliament’s position thereon of 15 September 2016(2),

–  having regard to the Commission’s Social Investment Package of 20 February 2013, including Recommendation 2013/112/EU entitled ‘Investing in Children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage’(3),

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 3 March 2010 entitled ‘Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ (COM(2010)2020), and to Parliament’s resolution of 16 June 2010 on EU 2020(4),

–  having regard to the Five Presidents’ Report of 22 June 2015 on ‘Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union’,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 7 December 2015 on the promotion of the social economy as a key driver of economic and social development in Europe,

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 November 2017 on combating inequalities as a lever to boost job creation and growth(5),

–  having regard to its resolution of 26 October 2017 on the economic policies of the euro area(6),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 October 2017 on minimum income policies as a tool for fighting poverty(7),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 September 2017 on a new skills agenda for Europe(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 June 2017 on the need for an EU strategy to end and prevent the gender pension gap(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 March 2017 on equality between women and men in the European Union in 2014-2015(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 15 February 2017 on the European Semester for economic policy coordination: Employment and Social Aspects in the Annual Growth Survey 2017(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 19 January 2017 on a European Pillar of Social Rights(12),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2016 on creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance(13),

–  having regard to its position of 2 February 2016 on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a European Platform to enhance cooperation in the prevention and deterrence of undeclared work(14),

–  having regard to its resolution of 24 November 2015 on reducing inequalities with a special focus on child poverty(15),

–  having regard to its resolution of 8 July 2015 on the Green Employment Initiative: Tapping into the job creation potential of the green economy(16),

–  having regard to its resolution of 4 July 2013 on the Impact of the crisis on access to care for vulnerable groups(17),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 June 2013 on social housing in the European Union(18),

–  having regard to the concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the initial report of the European Union (September 2015),

–  having regard to the European Court of Auditors Special report No 5/2017 of March 2017 entitled: ‘Youth unemployment – have EU policies made a difference? An assessment of the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report of 25 September 2017 entitled ‘Developments in working life in Europe: EurWORK annual review 2016’, and specifically to the chapter ‘Pay inequalities: Evidence, debate and policies’,

–  having regard to Eurofound’s topical update of 18 July 2017 entitled ‘Pay inequalities experienced by posted workers: Challenges to the “equal treatment” principle’, which provides a detailed overview of governments’ and social partners’ positions across Europe as regards the principle of equal remuneration for equal work,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report of 26 June 2017 entitled ‘Occupational change and wage inequality: European Jobs Monitor 2017’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report of 19 April 2017 entitled ‘Social mobility in the EU’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report of 13 March 2017 entitled ‘Income inequalities and employment patterns in Europe before and after the Great Recession’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound reports of 24 February 2017 on the Involvement of the social partners in the European Semester: 2016 update, and of 16 February 2016 on the Role of the social partners in the European Semester, which examines the period 2011 to 2014,

–  having regard to the Eurofound overview report of 17 November 2016 entitled ‘Sixth European Working Conditions Survey’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report of 12 March 2015 entitled ‘New forms of employment’,

–  having regard to the Eurofound report of 29 October 2013 entitled ‘Women, men and working conditions in Europe’,

–  having regard to the debate with representatives of national parliaments on the priorities of the 2018 European Semester,

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education (A8-0052/2018),

A.  whereas the employment rate in the EU is increasing and reached 72,3 % in the second quarter of 2017, corresponding to 235,4 million people in work, and constituting progress towards reaching the 75 % employment rate target specified in the Europe 2020 strategy; whereas there continue to be very substantial differences between employment rates in many Member States, ranging from well below the EU average of 65 % in Greece, Croatia, Italy and Spain, to higher than 75 % in the Netherlands, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden, with some way still to go to recover from the crisis and, in particular, to attain the Europe 2020 national targets; whereas employment growth has been stronger among older workers, high-skilled employees and men, and weaker in young people, low-skilled workers and women; whereas employment measured in terms of hours worked per employee remains 3 % below the pre-crisis level in the EU and 4 % below the pre-crisis level in the euro area, owing to more part-time work and fewer hours worked by full-time employees; whereas in the EU at present, 18,9 million people remain jobless, investment is still too low, wage growth is subdued and in-work poverty is still increasing; recalls that Article 3 of the TEU stipulates that the Union shall aim at full employment;

B.  whereas 18,9 million people in the EU are still jobless, despite the fact that the EU and euro area unemployment rates are at their lowest levels in nine years, standing at 7,5 % and 8,9 % respectively; whereas, moreover, this recovery remains very uneven among Member States, with unemployment rates ranging from around 4 % in Germany to almost 20 % in Spain and 23,6 % in Greece; whereas hidden unemployment – unemployed people willing to work but not actively searching for employment – was 20 % in 2016, while the share of long-term unemployment in the EU remains alarmingly high at more than 46,4 % (the corresponding figure for the euro area is 49,7 %); whereas in some Member States, unemployment remains high because of a lack of growth and structural weakness; whereas inadequate labour market reforms is one of the reasons for high unemployment; whereas support for the long-term unemployed is essential, as otherwise their situation will begin to affect their self-confidence, well-being and future development, putting them at risk of poverty and social exclusion and undermining both the sustainability of social security systems and the European social dimension;

C.  whereas part-time work has increased by 11 % since 2008 and full-time employment has dropped by 2 % over the same period, while involuntary part-time work fell from 29,3 % in 2013 to 27,7 % in 2016, but still represents one quarter of this kind of contract;

D.  whereas the labour market segmentation between permanent and atypical jobs remains worrying, with temporary contracts accounting for between 10 % and 20 % of employment in some Member States, with particularly low transition rates towards permanent contracts, and temporary jobs representing dead ends rather than stepping stones towards permanent jobs; whereas this phenomenon is preventing large numbers of workers from benefiting from secure, relatively well-paid employment and good prospects, and is creating a wage gap between permanent and temporary workers;

E.  whereas, although a slight improvement in the youth unemployment rate can be observed, it still remains disturbingly high at 16,6 % (18,7 % in the euro area); whereas, according to the draft Joint Employment Report, young people are more often employed in non-standard and atypical forms of employment, including temporary jobs, involuntary part-time work and lower wage jobs; whereas in 2016 there were still 6.3 million young people aged 15-24 not in employment, education or training (NEETs); whereas the Member States can tackle youth unemployment by developing and implementing labour market regulatory frameworks, education and training systems and active labour market policies, based on the prohibition of discrimination as regards age in relation to Article 19 TFEU and Council Directive 2000/78/EC on employment equality;

F.  whereas, although the differences in unemployment rates among the Member States are smaller, they still remain above the pre-crisis level; whereas long-term unemployment remains at above 50 % of total unemployment in some Member States and 46,6 % in the EU and 49,7 % in the euro area on average; whereas the unemployment rate only tracks people who do not have a job and who have been actively looked for work in the previous four weeks, while the long-term unemployment rate only measures the share of people in the economically active population aged 15 to 74 who has been unemployed for 12 months or more;

G.  whereas the gender employment gap still persists, and now stands at 11,6 % in the EU, with the gender-specific employment rates at 76,9 % for men and 65,3 % for women, while there are even wider gaps among non-EU born and Roma women; whereas the gender gap is even wider in part-time employment, where it amounted to a difference of 23 percentage points (pps) in 2016 and even exceeded 30 pps in four Member States, and with female involuntary part-time employment registering 23,5 %; whereas the employment rate of women with at least one child under the age of six is 9 pps less than the corresponding rate of women without children, while 19 % of the EU’s potential female workforce was inactive in 2016 because they were looking after children or incapacitated adults; whereas, owing to lower full-time equivalent employment rates, women endured a significant pay gap of 16,3 % in 2015 in the EU on average, ranging from 26,9 % in Estonia to 5,5 % in Italy and Luxemburg;

H.  whereas some Member States are faced with structural challenges in the labour market, such as low participation and skills and qualification mismatches; whereas there is a growing need for concrete measures to either integrate or re-integrate the inactive workforce in order to meet labour market demands;

I.  whereas societies in the European Union are ageing (nearly 20 % of the European population is over 65 and estimates suggest that this will reach 25 % by 2050), and the old-age dependency ratio is increasing, which presents additional challenges for the Member States and might require them to make adjustments to keep ensuring well-funded and robust social security, healthcare and long-term care systems, and to satisfy the need for formal and informal care provision; whereas informal carers constitute a vital asset to society; whereas life expectancy at birth in the EU-28 declined slightly in 2015, having been estimated at 80,6 in total (0,3 years lower than 2014), 83,3 for women (0,3 years lower than in 2014), and 77,9 for men (0,2 years lower than 2014); whereas this was the first fall in EU-28 life expectancy since 2002, when life expectancy data became available for all Member States, and can be observed in the majority of the Member States; whereas according to Eurostat, it is not yet possible to say whether the reduction in life expectancy between 2014 and 2015 is only temporary or will continue in the years to come;

J.  whereas demographic challenges include factors such as depopulation and population dispersion, hampering the growth of the regions affected and threatening the economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU;

K.  whereas the early school leaving rate stands at around 20 % in several Member States, including Malta, Spain and Romania, and is still above the EU target rate of 10 % in Portugal, Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Greece; whereas early school leaving represents a complex challenge at an individual, national and European level; whereas a disadvantaged socio-economic background, migrant origins and special needs are the most significant factors associated with poor educational achievement and early school leaving, bearing in mind that the average proportion of low achievers in science within the bottom socio-economic quartile of the 2015 PISA student population in the EU is around 34 %, 26 pps more than in the top socio-economic quartile;

L.  whereas the social economy sector comprises 2 million businesses (roughly 10 % of the EU total) and employs more than 14 million people (around 6,5 % of EU workers); whereas this sector has an important role to play in meeting the innumerable challenges facing present-day societies, not least the ageing of their populations;

M.  whereas 80 million Europeans have disabilities; whereas the implementation of accessibility measures for them continues to lag behind;

N.  whereas although a certain amount of progress in reducing poverty and social exclusion can be observed, there are still disadvantaged groups in society, and an unacceptable 119 million Europeans at risk of poverty or social exclusion, of whom more than 25 million are children (more than 1 in 4 of all children in the EU), while regional disparities also persist within the Member States and the Union as a whole, leaving the EU far off track in achieving the EU2020 target; whereas income inequality continues to grow in two thirds of all EU countries; whereas in the EU as a whole, the richest 20 % of households received an income share that was 5,1 times greater than the poorest 20 %, with this differential as high as 6,5 or above in some Eastern and Southern European countries – almost twice as much as some of the best-performing central European and Nordic countries; whereas high levels of inequality remain an obstacle to equal opportunities in access to education, training and social protection, and are therefore detrimental to social justice, social cohesion and sustainable economic development;

O.  whereas, according to the Commission publication ‘Employment and Social Developments in Europe 2017’, in 2015 there were 118,8 million people at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE), 1,7 million more than the 2008 figure and far from the Europe 2020 Strategy target of reducing AROPE by 20 million, with wide disparities between Member States, ranging from 5 % or less in the Czech Republic and Germany to around 20 % in Greece and Spain; whereas the AROPE rate for children (0-17) was 26,4 % in 2016, which was higher than the equivalent rates for adults (16-64, 24,2 %) and, by almost 10 pps, the rate for the elderly (65+, 18,3 %); whereas the number of children experiencing poverty remains alarmingly high in Europe, at more than 25 million at present, and the impact of poverty on children can last a lifetime and perpetuates the passing on of disadvantage from generation to generation; whereas social policies are important for achieving cohesion and bringing the EU closer to its citizens;

P.  whereas increasing in-work poverty persists in Europe as a whole, with the highest levels recorded in Spain (13,1 %), Greece (14 %) and Romania (18,6 %), which shows that employment alone is not always sufficient to lift people out of poverty and reflects different labour market patterns, including part-time and/or temporary jobs, wage levels and work intensity in households and poor working conditions; whereas wage growth remains subdued in the EU, having increased by less than 1 % in the last two years, and the dispersion of compensation of employees is rather wide in the EU, ranging from EUR 4,6 per hour worked in Bulgaria to EUR 43,3 per hour worked in Luxembourg; whereas real wage growth lagged behind average productivity growth in 18 of the 28 Member States and is even lagging behind the drop in unemployment; whereas wage-setting is a matter of national competence;

Q.  whereas education is a crucial determinant of young people’s integration into the labour market and is primarily the responsibility of the Member States, albeit supported by the Commission; whereas high-quality education and training must be accessible to all, taking into account the fact that the employment rate of young people (those aged 20-34) with higher education is 82,8 % in the EU, more than 10 pps higher than those with upper secondary education; whereas vocational training is starting to become more credible, both in the eyes of young Europeans and in the eyes of the businesses which are recognising their abilities; whereas training acquired in an informal context also provides Europeans with essential tools for the labour market;

R.  whereas, although the digital transformation requires workers to at least have basic digital skills, it is estimated that 44 % of the EU population lacks them(19);

S.  whereas, in accordance with Article 168 TFEU, a high level of human health protection should be ensured in the definition and implementation of the relevant Union policies and activities; whereas this would contribute to social inclusion, social justice and equality; whereas technological and scientific advances, which the 2018 Annual Growth Survey (AGS) welcomes, are making it possible to find better, more efficacious, and more affordable treatments and medicines; whereas this progress is helping to ensure that people suffering from particular chronic conditions will be fit to enter the labour market or continue working for much longer; whereas this aim is currently being challenged by the high cost of some medicines;

T.  whereas fiscal policy in the Member States plays a role in the stabilisation of the macroeconomic environment, while also pursuing other objectives, such as fiscal sustainability or redistribution;

U.  whereas the provision and management of social security systems are a Member State competence which the Union coordinates but does not harmonise;

V.  whereas gross disposable household income (GDHI) per capita has still not recovered from pre-crisis levels in various Member States, with a number of these figures between 20 and 30 pps lower than in 2008;

W.  whereas the capacity of the EU’s economy to drive long-term growth is less than that of our major competitors; whereas the Commission has estimated that potential growth is around 1,4 % in the EU, compared with 2 % in the US;

X.  whereas undeclared work deprives workers of their rights and encourages social dumping, entailing serious budgetary implications, and adversely affects employment, productivity, the quality of work and skills development, and the efficiency and effectiveness of the pension entitlements system; whereas continued efforts must be brought to bear in order to turn undeclared work into declared work;

Y.  whereas the outermost regions have to contend with immense difficulties relating to their specific characteristics that limit their potential for growth; whereas in these regions unemployment rates range from between 11,2 % and 27,1 %, and long-term unemployment rates from between 54,5 % and 80,9 %; whereas in these regions youth unemployment is above 40 %;

Z.  whereas, according to Eurofound research, social partners’ involvement in the elaboration of national reform programmes is gradually improving in most Member States, although significant differences in outcomes remain when it comes to the quality and effectiveness of national social partners’ overall engagement in the European Semester process;

AA.  whereas Eurofound’s forthcoming study on the involvement of the social partners in the European Semester is set to report a process of consolidation and growing awareness, following Employment Guideline No 7 on enhancing the functioning of labour markets; whereas, however, the social partners highlight the need to ensure proper engagement by facilitating meaningful and timely consultation, an exchange of contributions and feedback, and by giving visibility to their views;

1.  Welcomes the Annual Growth Survey 2018, together with the integrated European Pillar of Social Rights, as an important part of overall policies for quality employment, sustainable growth and investment, aiming to increase productivity and wages, create jobs, reduce inequalities and poverty and improve social protection and the access to and quality of public services; acknowledges that the AGS is based on a strategy of investment, structural reforms and responsible public finances, which should be coupled with policies and measures for fulfilling the principles and objectives of the European Pillar of Social Rights; stresses that the Commission should, within the framework of the European Semester, improve the process of policy coordination in order to better monitor, prevent and correct negative trends that could increase inequalities and weaken social progress, as a means to link economic coordination with employment and social performance; calls on the Member States to follow the priorities identified in the survey and the accompanying Joint Employment Report, with a view to their national policies and strategies to promote growth, sustainable economic development, quality employment, social cohesion, and social protection and inclusion; notes the importance of protecting workers’ rights and fostering the bargaining power of employees;

2.  Stresses the need for socially and economically balanced structural reforms aimed at the realisation of the Social Triple A by improving inclusive labour market and social policies which address the needs of workers and vulnerable groups, in order to boost investment, to create quality employment, to help the workforce to acquire the skills they need, to promote equal opportunities in the labour market and fair working conditions, to increase labour productivity, to support wage growth and sustainable and adequate social protection systems, and to improve living standards for all citizens; emphasises the need to reinforce a favourable environment for both business and workers with a view to creating more stable employment, while balancing the social and economic dimensions and taking decisions jointly and in a complementary fashion; calls on the Member States to gradually shift taxes from labour to other sources without jeopardising social security; calls on the Member States to undertake measures to improve social standards and reduce inequalities;

3.  Stresses that social dialogue and collective bargaining are key instruments for employers and trade unions in order to establish fair wages and working conditions, and that strong collective bargaining systems increase Member States’ resilience in times of economic crisis; recalls that the right to establish collective bargaining is an issue that concerns all European workers, with crucial implications for democracy and the rule of law, including respect for fundamental social rights, and that collective bargaining is a European fundamental right which the European institutions are bound to respect under Article 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights; calls, in this context, for policies that respect, promote and strengthen collective bargaining and the workers’ position in wage-setting systems, which play a critical role in achieving a high standard of working conditions; believes all this should be done with a view to supporting aggregate demand and economic recovery, reducing wage inequalities and fighting in-work poverty;

4.  Calls for a stronger commitment to combat poverty and rising inequality and for social investments to be boosted, in view of their economic returns and social benefits; recalls that economies with a higher degree of social investment are more resilient to shocks; calls on the Member States and the Commission, within the existing rules of the Stability and Growth Pact, to allow room for public social investment and, where it may be needed, for greater investment in social infrastructure and support for those hit hardest in order to properly address inequalities, in particular through social protection systems that provide adequate and well-targeted income support; calls on the Commission to carry out, where relevant, a more in-depth assessment of which types of spending can definitely be considered as social investment;

5.  Believes it is important to foster intercultural dialogue in order to make it easier for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to enter the labour market and become integrated into society; expresses its concern about the continuing low participation in the labour market of ethnic minorities; calls on the Member States, in this connection, to correctly implement Directives 2000/78/EC and 2000/43/EC; recalls that newcomers bring new skills and knowledge with them, and calls for the further development and promotion of tools providing multilingual information about the existing opportunities for formal and informal learning, professional training, traineeships and voluntary work;

6.  Urges the Commission to bring efforts to bear with a view to helping people suffering from given conditions, for example chronic pain, to enter or remain on the labour market; maintains that the labour market needs to be geared to such situations, and made more flexible and non-discriminatory, so as to ensure that the people concerned can likewise contribute to the EU’s economic development, thus relieving the strain on social security systems;

7.  Welcomes the Commission’s support for investment to enhance environmental sustainability and the acknowledgement of its potential across the economy; agrees that support for the transition towards a circular and green economy has a high net job creation potential;

8.  Welcomes the Interinstitutional Proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) and believes that the European Semester should support the development of its 20 key principles regarding equal opportunities, access to the labour market, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion, which should serve as a point of reference and a recommendation when implementing the European Semester policy coordination cycle in order to build a genuine Social Triple A for Europe, and to create economic growth and a predictable, sustainable financial situation subordinate to the targets of economic and employment policy, thereby serving the main, prioritised aims of the EU 2020 strategy; points out that the European Semester coordination process is an essential means of consolidating the European social dimension, from which the Social Pillar derives; highlights that the EPSR is a first step through building up a common approach to the protection and development of social rights across the EU, which should be reflected in measures pursued by Member States; calls on the Commission, therefore, to put forward concrete proposals to reinforce social rights through concrete and specific tools (legislation, policy-making mechanisms and financial instruments) and achieving concrete results; stresses the primacy of fundamental rights;

9.  Acknowledges the efforts taken to strengthen the social dimension of the Semester; calls for further action to balance social and economic priorities and to improve the quality of monitoring and recommendations in the social area;

10.  Welcomes the new scoreboard, which provides for 14 headline indicators to screen the employment and social performance of Member States along three broad dimensions, identified in the context of the Social Pillar;

11.  Underlines the fact, that for the EU on average, 11 of the 14 headline indicators recorded an improvement over the last available year, confirming the steady improvement in the labour market and social situation which has accompanied the economic recovery; notes, however, that action is required to achieve social upward convergence along the dimensions identified by the Social Pillar, as stated by the Commission, and that the analysis of the headlines indicators shows at least one ‘critical situation’ for 17 of the 28 Member States;

12.  Acknowledges that, despite improvements in the economic and employment situation in recent years in the EU as a whole, the gains produced have not always been distributed evenly, as the number of people in a situation of poverty and social exclusion continues to be too high; is concerned by growing inequalities in the EU and its Member States, and by the increasing share of workers at risk of poverty, not only part-time workers, but also full-time workers; calls on the Commission and the Member States to continue their efforts to improve the conditions for these people, and to give greater recognition to the work and expertise of NGOs, anti-poverty organisations and people experiencing poverty themselves, encouraging their participation in the exchange of good practices; points out that high levels of inequality diminish the output of the economy and the potential for sustainable growth; underlines the fact that the integration of long-term unemployed individuals through individually tailored measures is a key factor for fighting poverty and social exclusion and for contributing to the sustainability of national social security systems; calls for partnerships encompassing all relevant stakeholders to be established and developed in order to provide the tools necessary to respond more effectively to labour market needs, deliver effective solutions and prevent long-term unemployment; stresses the need to implement effective labour market policies in order to reduce long-term unemployment; considers that the Member States should further help those out of work by providing affordable, accessible and quality support services for job search, training and requalification, while protecting those unable to participate;

13.  Calls on the Commission to take into account the Social Development Goals when proposing policy recommendations in the context of the European Semester;

14.  Reiterates its concern about the variability in employment and unemployment rates in different Member States and warns, in particular, about the worrying degree of underemployment and hidden unemployment; is particularly concerned at the high level of youth unemployment, which stands at over 11 % in the EU, with the exception of a few Member States – Austria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Hungary, Malta and Germany; considers the high level of NEETs and early school leavers that still persists in several countries especially worrying; welcomes, in this respect, an increase in funding for the Youth Employment Initiative by EUR 2,4 billion for the period 2017-2020; highlights that, if necessary, granting additional funds at EU level for the initiative should be considered and that Member States should ensure that the Youth Guarantee is fully open to all groups, including vulnerable persons; recalls the European Court of Auditors’ Special report No 5 Youth Unemployment – have EU policies made a difference?’;

15.  Shares the Commission’s view that ‘social protection systems should ensure the right to minimum income benefits’; calls on the Member States to set an adequate minimum income above the poverty line, in line with national legislation and practices and with the involvement of social partners, and to ensure it is accessible to all people and targets those most in need; considers that in order to be effective in the fight against poverty, minimum income schemes should be accompanied by access to quality and affordable public goods and services and measures to promote equal opportunities and facilitate entry or re-entry into the labour market for people in vulnerable situations, if they can work;

16.  Calls on the Commission to create a European social security number in order to facilitate information exchange, to provide people with a record of their current and past entitlements and to prevent abuse;

17.  Reminds the Commission that access to social protection is fundamental for creating fair working conditions, and that following the consultations with social partners, concrete proposals need to be devised in order to ensure that all people in all forms of work build up social security entitlements, including adequate pensions;

18.  Calls on the Commission, through the European Social Fund (ESF), European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and the European Semester, to strengthen its efforts to support comprehensive public policies in the Member States, by focusing on delivering smoother transitions into work from education and (long-term) unemployment, and calls, more specifically, for the full implementation of the national measures outlined in the Council Recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market(20); calls on Member States and the Commission to promote lifelong learning, especially for older workers, to help them adapt their skills and facilitate their employability;

19.  Is concerned about the remaining high levels of poverty in Europe almost a decade after the onset of the crisis, and the inter-generational divide that has ensued, including in those Member States with a lower share of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion; is especially worried about the increasing rates of child poverty and in-work poverty in several Member States, despite the macroeconomic recovery in recent years; notes that the situation in relation to the share of children participating in early childhood care and education is critical in more than one third of Member States; calls on the Commission to support the Member States in designing and implementing structural reforms, and to assess their social and distributional impact;

20.  Asks the Commission and the Member States to adopt all the necessary measures to drastically reduce poverty in Europe, particularly child poverty, and, more specifically, to put forward concrete proposals that place children at the centre of existing poverty alleviation policies, in accordance with its Recommendation on Investing in Children and with due consideration for the preparatory actions established by the 2017 and 2018 EU budgets and for the relevant Parliament resolutions, by ensuring that measures are in place to enable children at risk of poverty to access free healthcare, education and childcare, and decent housing and adequate nutrition; stresses the need for the Member States to adopt national plans to reduce child poverty which specifically address the limited impact of social transfers in reducing the risk of poverty;

21.  Welcomes the focus in the 2018 AGS on adequate social housing and other housing assistance as essential services, including protecting people in vulnerable situations from unjustified forced eviction and foreclosures, and tackling homelessness; calls for reinforced monitoring of homelessness and housing exclusion in the Semester and recommendations, as required;

22.  Welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union, replacing the current Written Statement Directive;

23.  Stresses the higher unemployment rates of young people and low-skilled workers compared with adult high-skilled workers; calls on the Commission and the Member States to speed up the implementation of the New Skills Agenda, which is designed to upskill people with specific skills problems to help to reintegrate into the labour market;

24.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to maximise their efforts in investing in affordable, accessible and high-quality education and training, in innovation supporting labour productivity growth, in active labour market policies, social inclusion and labour integration and in more effective and tailor-made public and private employment services – taking into account the geographical-demographical-income discrepancies within individual regions and countries – in order to guarantee that the skills acquired will match labour market demand, to empower people and integrate them into the labour market, and to reduce the number of early school leavers; underlines, in this respect, the growing demand for digital and other transferable skills and insists that their development is urgent and particularly necessary and should cover all societal groups, with particular attention devoted to low-skilled workers and young people; stresses the importance of initiatives to support the long-term mobility of students and young graduates from education and vocational training, which will make it possible to develop a skilled and mobile labour force in sectors with potential;

25.  Takes the view that mutual recognition of qualifications will be beneficial for overcoming the gap between skills shortages on the European labour market and jobseekers, especially young people; points out that qualifications and skills acquired in non-formal and informal learning contexts are important to the extent that they improve the employability of young people and those who have been out of the labour market because they have had to act as carers; points, therefore, to the importance of establishing a validation system for non-formal and informal forms of knowledge and experience, especially those acquired through volunteering; welcomes the fact that the Commission has in the AGS taken into account the importance of recognising those skills for the purposes of the New Skills Agenda for Europe; calls on the Commission and the Member States to upgrade vocational training and strengthen work-based learning, including quality apprenticeships;

26.  Calls on the Member States to support apprenticeship programmes and make full use of the Erasmus+ funding available for trainees in order to guarantee the quality of training of this kind and make it attractive; draws the Commission’s attention to the need to boost the uptake of this programme by young people in the outermost regions, as outlined in the Commission communication entitled ‘A stronger and renewed strategic partnership with the EU’s outermost regions’;

27.  Encourages Member States to scale up their efforts to implement the country-specific recommendations on education and youth and to foster the exchange of best practices;

28.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to continue initiatives aimed at increasing access to better education, skills and employment, and to ensure a stronger focus on the green and circular economy throughout all their work on skills;

29.  Is of the opinion that a future-proof Skills Agenda should include learning for sustainability and be part of a broader reflection on occupational literacy in the context of the growing digitisation and robotisation of European societies, focusing not only on economic growth but also on learners’ personal development, improved health and well-being;

30.  Welcomes the Commission communication of 14 November 2017 on strengthening European identity through education and culture (COM(2017)0673), which includes bold objectives in the field of education, in particular on creating a European Education Area and improving language learning in Europe;

31.  Recalls that the creative industries are among the most entrepreneurial sectors and that creative education develops transferable skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving, teamwork and resourcefulness; calls for the arts and creative learning to be incorporated into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, given the close link between creativity and innovation; highlights, moreover, the potential of the cultural and creative sector (CCS) for the preservation and promotion of European cultural and linguistic diversity and for economic growth, innovation and employment, especially youth employment; stresses that further promotion of and investment in the CCS may contribute substantially to investment, growth, innovation and employment; calls on the Commission, therefore, to consider the opportunities offered by the entire CCS, including notably NGOs and small associations, for example under the Youth Employment Initiative;

32.  Recalls the need to encourage girls and young women to pursue ICT studies and calls on Member States to encourage girls and young women to study STEM subjects, while also covering arts and humanities, and to increase the representation of women in STEM areas;

33.  Calls on the Member States and the Commission to take all the necessary measures, in line with the principle of subsidiarity, to improve the services and legislation that are important for a proper work-life balance and for gender equality; calls for the development of accessible, quality and affordable childcare and early education services, as well as care services for those reliant on care, and for the creation of favourable conditions for parents and carers by allowing for advantageous family leave take-up and flexible working arrangements which tap into the potential of new technologies, guarantee social protection and provide adequate training, where necessary; stresses, however, the necessity of alleviating the burden of obligatory care from family members and calls for the creation of a regulated domain of domestic workers and carers that will facilitate work-life balance while contributing to job creation; underlines, in this respect, the potential of public-private partnerships and the important role of social service providers and social economy enterprises; strongly emphasises the need to monitor social and gender progress, to include the gender perspective and to consider the impact of reforms over time;

34.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to introduce targets on care for elderly persons, persons with disabilities and other dependants, similar to the Barcelona targets, with monitoring tools to ensure that they are met; calls on the Commission and Member States to look towards qualitative standards for all care services, including on their availability, accessibility and affordability; calls on the Member States and the Commission to take up the conclusions of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council on enhancing community-based support and care for independent living, and to develop a clear strategy and strong investment to develop modern, high-quality community-based services and to increase support for caregivers, especially family carers;

35.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to improve the quality of work, both in terms of working conditions, health and safety, and in terms of wages which provide a decent living and family planning; stresses the importance of tackling undeclared work effectively, by involving social partners and imposing appropriate fines; urges the Member States to double down on their efforts to transform undeclared work into declared work by bolstering their labour inspection mechanisms and putting measures in place that enable workers to move from the informal economy to the formal economy; reminds the Member States of the existence of the Undeclared Work Platform, which they should actively participate in by using it for the exchange of best practices and with a view to tackling undeclared work, letterbox companies and bogus self-employment, all of which jeopardise both the quality of work and workers’ access to social protection systems and national public finances, leading to unfair competition between European businesses; welcomes new initiatives proposed by the Commission, such as the launching of a public consultation on a European Labour Authority and a European Social Security Number; calls on the Member States to provide labour inspectorates or other relevant public bodies with adequate resources to address the issue of undeclared work, to design measures to enable workers to move from the grey to the formal economy and to improve cross-border cooperation between inspection services and the electronic exchange of information and data, in order to improve the efficiency of controls designed to combat and prevent social fraud and undeclared work and reduce administrative burdens;

36.  Calls on the Member States to ensure that active labour market policies are efficient and effective and are designed in such a way as to support mobility between sectors and the re-training of workers, issues which will become increasingly important as our labour markets adapt to the digital transformation of our economies;

37.  Underlines the potential of SMEs and social enterprises in job creation and the economy as a whole; considers it vital to assess the high rate of start-up failure in order to draw lessons for the future, and to support entrepreneurship, including through the development and support of the social and circular economy models; considers it vital, moreover, to improve the business environment by removing administrative burdens and adjusting the requirements, improving access to finance and supporting the development of tax models and simplified tax compliance procedures favouring SMEs, entrepreneurs, the self-employed, micro-entities, start-ups and social economy enterprises, and to prevent tax evasion and a lack of reliable information for identifying tax bases and their real owners; calls on the Member States to develop policies which foster a responsible and effective entrepreneurship culture among young people from an early age, providing them with internship and company visit opportunities and the right knowledge to forestall failure; urges the Commission, in this context, to continue the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programmes; calls on the Member States to support associations and initiatives which help young entrepreneurs to develop innovative projects;

38.  Highlights that social entrepreneurship is a growing field that can boost the economy whilst simultaneously alleviating deprivation, social exclusion and other societal problems; considers, therefore, that entrepreneurship education should include a social dimension and address subjects such as fair trade, social enterprises and alternative business models, including co-operatives, in order to strive towards a more social, inclusive and sustainable economy;

39.  Points out that social economy enterprises were crucial in minimising the impact of the crisis; stresses, therefore, the need to give those enterprises more support, particularly with regard to access to the different forms of financing, including European funds, and reducing their administrative burden; stresses the need to give them a legal framework which recognises their activities in the EU and prevents unfair competition; deplores the fact that the assessment of their activities is not reflected in the AGS, as requested by Parliament;

40.  Recognises that women continue to be under-represented in the labour market; believes, in this regard, that flexible employment contracts, including voluntary temporary and part-time contracts, can play an important role in increasing the participation levels of groups that might otherwise have been excluded from the labour market, including women;

41.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to invest in research and promote the development of new production technologies and services in the framework of a just transition; underlines their potential to increase productivity and sustainability, create new quality employment and stimulate long-term development;

42.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote investment in the R&D sector in accordance with the 2020 Strategy; maintains that investments in this sector help to increase the competitiveness and productivity of the economy and hence promote the creation of stable jobs and higher wages;

43.  Emphasises the importance of ensuring access to broadband in all regions, including rural areas and regions with serious and permanent natural or demographic problems, so as to promote harmonious development throughout the EU;

44.  Considers demographic decline, which affects EU regions to different extents, to be among the serious obstacles hindering EU development, which require differing approaches and commitments; calls on the Commission and the Member States to introduce measures designed to address this challenge; underlines the fact that demographic decline requires a holistic approach which should include the adaptation of the necessary infrastructure, quality employment with decent wages and the enhancement of public services and voluntary flexible working arrangements, which should go hand-in-hand with adequate job security and accessible social protection;

45.  Welcomes the fact that the Commission has included the need to provide statistics on demographic challenges such as depopulation and the population dispersion in its European Statistical Programme; considers that this data will provide an accurate picture of the problems facing these regions, thus enabling better solutions to be found; calls on the Commission to take account of these statistics in the future multiannual financial framework (MFF);

46.  Recalls that increased life expectancy requires the adaptation of pensions systems to ensure their sustainability and a good quality of life for elderly people; stresses that this can be achieved by reducing the economic dependency ratio, including by offering adequate working conditions to provide opportunities for those wishing to work longer and by evaluating – at Member State level and together with social partners – the need to put both the statutory and effective retirement age on a sustainable footing with increases in life expectancy and with insurance contribution years, and by preventing early exit from the labour market, as well as accommodating youth and refugees and migrants on the labour market; calls on the Commission to support Member States in strengthening public and occupational pension systems and in creating care credits to compensate for lost contributions of women and men due to child and long-term care responsibilities as a tool to tackle the gender gap in pensions and to provide an adequate retirement income above the poverty threshold and to live in dignity and independence;

47.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to pursue the policy of active ageing, the social inclusion of elderly people and solidarity between generations; recalls that more cost-effective health systems and long-term care that ensure timely access to affordable preventive and curative healthcare of good quality are also fundamental for productivity;

48.  Is of the opinion that Cohesion Policy, as the main public investment policy of the European Union, has demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing inequalities and enhancing inclusion and poverty reduction, and should therefore receive more funding in the future MFF; considers that the ESF should be retained as the main EU instrument for the integration and reintegration of workers into the labour market, as well as for supporting measures for social inclusion, combating poverty and inequalities, and to support the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights; calls on the Commission to increase the ESF in order to support the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights in the next MFF;

49.  Stresses the necessity for the EFSI to support growth and employment in high-risk investment projects, and to tackle youth and long-term unemployment; is concerned, however, about the enormous imbalance in the use of the fund between the EU-15 and EU-13; stresses, moreover, the role of the Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) Programme for promoting high levels of quality and sustainability of employment, for guaranteeing adequate and decent social protection, and for combating social exclusion and poverty;

50.  Urges the Member States to assess whether they could reduce taxes on essential items, particularly food, a step which constitutes one of the most basic social justice measures;

51.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to step up efforts for the further inclusion of people with disabilities in the labour market by removing legislative barriers, tackling discrimination and adapting workplaces, as well as by creating incentives for their employment; recalls that an adapted work environment for people with disabilities, their integration into all levels of education and training and targeted financial support are essential measures which will help them participate fully in the labour market and society as a whole; calls on the Commission to include in the social scoreboard indicators on labour and the social inclusion of people with disabilities;

52.  Welcomes the mainstreaming of the rights of people with disabilities in the proposed new guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States annexed to the AGS 2018; calls, nonetheless, for these provisions to include concrete measures to achieve the stated goals, in line with EU and Member State obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD);

53.  Encourages the Member States to implement the necessary measures for the social inclusion of refugees and people of ethnic minority or immigrant origin;

54.  Underlines the fact that the non-alignment of labour demand with labour supply is a problem facing employers across all EU regions, including the most developed, and cannot be solved by insecure or instable employment; calls on the Commission and the Member States to promote measures to facilitate the mobility of workers across jobs, sectors and locations in order to meet labour demand in less- and better-developed regions alike, while at the same time ensuring stability and decent working conditions and enabling professional progress and promotion; acknowledges that intra-EU labour mobility across the Member States helps to meet supply and demand; calls on the Commission and the Member States, furthermore, to devote particular attention to the unique circumstances of cross-border workers and workers in peripheral and outermost regions;

55.  Deplores the fact that, after countless requests from Parliament, the outermost regions are still not included in the AGS; urges the Commission, with the aim of guaranteeing equity between regions and furthering upward convergence, which has been much discussed, to step up the application of Article 349 TFEU in an effort to boost the integration of the outermost regions into the EU; stresses that the special attention given to the outermost regions must be maintained, not only with regard to allocation of funds but also in the light of the impact that European policies can have on their social situation and levels of employment;

56.  Highlights the fact that over the period 2014-2016, real wage growth lagged behind productivity growth, notwithstanding improvements in the labour market; recalls that growth in real wages, as a result of increased productivity, is crucial for tackling inequalities;

57.  Underlines the role in the reform process of the social partners as essential stakeholders, of national social dialogue practices and of civil society, and the added value of their active involvement in the drafting, sequencing and implementation of reforms; stresses that being effectively involved in the design of policies will enable social partners to feel more engaged in the national reforms adopted as a result of the country-specific recommendations of the Semester and ultimately reinforce their ownership of the outcomes; calls on the Commission, therefore, to propose guidelines for such adequate involvement of all relevant stakeholders; supports the view that new forms of employment in the globalised market require new forms of social and civil dialogue, and calls on the Commission and the Member States to support the creation of these new forms of social dialogue and the protection of these new forms of employment; stresses that all workers must be informed of their rights and be protected in the event that whistleblowing is used to report abusive practices; believes that, if we are to move towards upward convergence, social dialogue should be pursued throughout every phase of the European Semester process; affirms that the Member States need to help people build the skills required in the labour market;

58.  Highlights the fact that, according to the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) and the EU2020 scoreboard, the distribution of skills in the labour force largely matched the qualification requirements of the labour market in 2016, and that labour supply exceeded demand for all qualification types, and was particularly high for low- and medium-level qualifications; stresses that CEDEFOP forecasts show a parallel rise in skills from both demand and supply until 2025 and that skills levels are expected to change faster for the labour force than those required by the job market; calls on the Commission and the Member States, therefore, to carefully reassess the difficulties in accessing the labour market; is concerned about the increase in the over-qualification rate (25 % in 2014);

59.  Highlights that gender discrimination, such as the gender pay gap or the gap in the employment rate between men and woman, is still great, with the average gross hourly earnings of male employees about 16 % higher than those of female employees; stresses that these gaps are due to the under-representation of women in well-paid sectors, discrimination in the labour market and the large number of women in part-time work; urges that further progress is needed to narrow these gaps; calls on the Commission, in this context, to introduce into the EU 2020 strategy a gender equality pillar and an overarching gender equality objective;

60.  Calls on the Member States to incorporate the gender dimension and the principle of equality between woman and man in their national reform programmes and stability and convergence programmes, by setting qualitative targets and devising measures that address persisting gender gaps;

61.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 123, 12.5.2016, p. 1.
(2) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0355.
(3) OJ L 59, 2.3.2013, p. 5.
(4) OJ C 236 E, 12.8.2011, p. 57.
(5) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0451.
(6) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0418.
(7) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0403.
(8) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0360.
(9) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0260.
(10) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0073.
(11) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0039.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2017)0010.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0338.
(14) OJ C 35, 31.1.2018, p. 157.
(15) OJ C 366, 27.10.2017, p. 19.
(16) OJ C 265, 11.8.2017, p. 48.
(17) OJ C 75, 26.2.2016, p. 130.
(18) OJ C 65, 19.2.2016, p. 40.
(19) The Digital Economy and Society Index, European Commission.
(20) OJ C 67, 20.2.2016, p. 1.

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