Two years after the Porto Social Summit, the Porto Social Forum took stock of the progress made so far on the European Pillar of Social Rights (ESSR) on 26 and 27 May 2023. The main themes of the Forum were the European Year of Skills in the context of the digital and green transformation and the continuation of the EU Social Agenda. In particular, the need to provide adequate education and training and to implement the EU Child Guarantee more quickly and effectively was highlighted.
Two years after the adoption of the Porto Declaration and the Action plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (ESSR) at the Porto Social Summit in May 2021, the Portuguese government, with the support of the EU Commission and in cooperation with the European Parliament, organised a Social Forum in Porto. It brought together the Social Affairs and Labour Ministers of the Member States, EU Social Affairs Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, the Presidents of the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, as well as social partners and stakeholders to evaluate the progress of the ESSR and find solutions to current challenges. During the Forum, an open letter was signed by 37 political decision-makers, calling among other for an effective implementation of the EU Child Guarantee and stressing the importance of competences and qualifications for the green and digital transition..
Goals of the Forum: Poverty reduction and more education and training
A key theme of the Forum was the need to prioritise poverty reduction and youth employment in particular in the coming years. In 2021, 95.4 million people in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, a situation that was shown to have worsened in 2022 due to the cost of living crisis. After an already missed poverty reduction target by 2020, the 2021 European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan already aimed at reducing the number of EU citizens at risk of poverty by at least 15 million people by 2030.
Another priority of the Forum was the issue of education and training for young people and adults in view of the new demands on the workforce in the context of the green and digital transformation. EU Social Affairs Commissioner Nicolas Schmit underlined this in his speech at the Social Forum: “To help Member States implement these much-needed skills programmes, €65 billion in EU funding has been earmarked from the European Social Fund Plus and the Recovery and Resilience Facility.” The EU Parliament’s Employment Committee also adopted a Resolution on a roadmap towards a social Europe, and stressed the need to promote social inclusion and dignity and ensure access to a quality labour market. With regard to vocational training and lifelong learning, the EU Parliament also proposes, among other, paid educational leave, which AK has been demanding for a long time.
EU Social Affairs Commissioner favours reduction of working hours in response to skills shortage
EU Social Affairs Commissioner Nicolas Schmit’s comments on the introduction of a 4-day week are welcome. The labour shortage is currently a major problem in the EU. According to Schmit, there was no common position in the EU on the issue of a "shorter working week" and he referred to the importance of social partnership agreements. Nevertheless, he himself was open to a reduction of working hours, also in view of the changed ideas of younger generations about the balance between work and private life.
AK: Ambitious minimum social standards to consolidate the ESSR
In order to also advance social progress in the EU in the future, it will also be important from AK’s point of view to set ambitious European minimum standards in further areas in the future: Apart from the ongoing fight against wage and social dumping, these include social rights in connection with artificial intelligence, minimum standards for working conditions in long-term care and for live-in carers, and in the areas of unemployment insurance and minimum income. In line with the main topics of this year's Forum, AK also advocates for a right to educational leave and a minimum level of education and training during working hours. In any case, a consolidation of the ESSR in the next legislative period needs a responsible social dialogue. This was also the opinion of Oliver Röpke, President of the European Economic and Social Committee in his speech at the Forum in Porto, in which he emphasised that the manifold challenges facing the EU cannot be overcome without the involvement of the social partners and civil society organisations
AK EUROPA: Review of the EU Social Summit in Porto
AK EUROPA Policy Brief: Action Plan on the Pillar of Social Rights and EU Social Summit: Social Realignment of the EU needed
European Parliament Resolution: “Roadmap for a Social Europe : two years after Porto”
Speech by EU Social Affairs Commissioner Schmit at the Porto Social Forum 2023
Speech by the President of the European Economic and Social Committee Oliver Röpke at the Porto Social Forum