About 40 % of the European labour force works in atypical forms of employment. Furthermore, a fifth of jobs in the EU are so-called “poor jobs”, which are characterised by poor working conditions and low wages. This affects young people and women in particular. But there are also new forms of employment, created within the scope of digitalisation, which come under the banner of precarious work. At European level, the European Pillar of Social Rights represents a basis to counteract shortcomings in the world of work.
The European Pillar of Social Rights was proclaimed in November 2017. The principles laid down in it shall among other guarantee equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions as well as social protection and inclusion. A number of measures have been implemented since then. For example, agreement was reached on establishing a European Labour Authority and the Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU. Agreement was also reached in respect of the Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers. However, to fight the abuse of atypical and precarious types of employment, these measures only represent first steps; stronger and more effective measures are required.
Only 60 % of the European labour force has a permanent full-time job, whilst 40 % have a fixed-term contract and/or part-time job or are self-employed. There is currently no exact definition at European level as to what precarious work actually means. Not every atypical type of employment (fixed-term contracts, part-time jobs, temporary agency work, self-employment etc.) need to be precarious, but it may well be. Crucial is here the interaction of several factors, which in the end result in precariousness. For example, it plays a vital role whether the type of employment has been chosen on a voluntary or involuntary basis, for which period (fixed-term or permanent) and the working hours. The quality of the working conditions, such as the right to further education or access to other benefits, as well as the level of income are important elements as to whether work is precarious or not. Access to social rights (pension and health insurance or unemployment benefit etc.) is as decisive as the existence of interes representation and trade unions.
Precarious work is in particular then a problem if it results in poverty because the income is not sufficient or because social rights in form of unemployment benefits or pension payments does not exist. “New” forms of employment, which have been created as a result of digitalisation, boast about flexible working hours and independence; however, they offer no or hardly any social rights. Apart from low-qualified and young people, it is particularly women working in in atypical types of employment, which puts these groups at an even higher risk of poverty. Precariousness also has a negative impact on people’s mental health and self-confidence and impedes in particular young people to plan for a sustainable future.
Romain Wolff, President of the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI), emphasised at an event on March 5th 2019 that it has to be possible within the EU to live a decent life with holding only one job. Measures and proposals to improve the situation of the precariously working people are presented by the EU Commission, the European Parliament and by trade unions. Hence, existing rights shall be applied effectively and the European Pillar of Social Rights shall be further implemented. Apart from that, social dialogue must be promoted, trade unions must be strengthened and an interest representation for the “new” types of employment must be established. Franca Salis Madinier, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), pointed out that the EU has the opportunity to create a basis for all and that access to social rights has to be independent of the type of employment.