Since in September 2015, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, within the scope of his speech on the “State of the Union”, announced the development of a European Pillar of Social Rights, it has not only been the European Commission working on filling this announcement with contents. The European Parliament too has now voted on a corresponding report.
In spring 2016, the Commission presented a first preliminary draft, which was met with little enthusiasm. The corresponding Position Paper by the AK includes the general verdict that it hardly contained any approaches for a substantial strengthening of the social dimension of the EU, which went beyond general principles, and that individual proposals even signalled the opposite.
Hence, at a panel discussion in December 2016, which was co-hosted by the AK, Josef Wöss, head of the social policy unit at the Austrian Chamber of Labour Vienna, made it clear that a social Europe requires a holistic approach to a social progress protocol, a realignment of fiscal policy (keyword “Golden Investment Rule“)and an active fight against inequality.
Now the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliaments under rapporteur Maria João Rodrigues presented a report to the plenum, which takes a similar line and clearly goes beyond the rather little ambitious draft of the Commission.
What stands out positively is that it contains the demand for a framework directive for appropriate working conditions and relevant minimum standards; hence, has a legally binding effect and thereby clearly distinguishes itself from the ideas of the Commission, to achieve a “political commitment” with regard to recommendations.
Furthermore, the report refers in many places to the meaningfulness and urgent necessity of “social investments” – investments for example in qualified childcare, healthcare, active labour market policy and last but not least in the “promotion of digital competences“, an area, where many of Europe's countries had a lot of catching up to do.
As part of advancing digitalisation, which is associated with a rapidly changing world of gainful employment and related forms of employment (keyword “a-typisation”), the report demands a rebasing of social security systems. A refinancing in form of relieving the factor work through a higher share of taxable – predominantly employment independent – forms of financing would lead to the expectation of positive employment effects and could be linked with distribution policy and environmentally desired incentives. The report also points out that the discussion on raising the pension age should not only take into account life expectancy but also other factors, such as developments in productivity, the
economic dependency ratio of the working population as well as the different arduousness of the various professions.
All in all the report of the Parliament provides a number of positive starting points for an actual “social upward convergence”. The report was adopted in the plenum on Thursday, 19.1.2017 with 396 to 180 votes. The ball is now once again in the corner of the Commission. One can only wait with bated breath...