16 February 2017

For a more robust social Europe with the European Pillar of Social Rights

France fully supports the European Commission’s “European Pillar of Social Rights” project. It has put forward a series of ambitious proposals on the subject, with three priority objectives: favouring access to the labour market, instituting fair working conditions and protecting citizens against the hazards of life.
Content published under the Government Cazeneuve from 2016 06th December to 2017 14th May
In his 2015 State of the Union speech, the President of the European Commission indicated that he wanted to develop a European Pillar of Social Rights that took account of evolutions in the world of work and could point the way to a return to convergence in the Eurozone. In March 2016, the European Commission presented a preliminary outline of what should eventually become the European Pillar of Social Rights.
The European Commission’s proposal is of key importance, as the European Union must above all achieve the right balance between its economic and social aspects.
After collecting the opinions of social partners and major actors in civil society, France responded to the public consultation launched by the European Commission. The Government also drew on the opinion delivered by the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council, as well as on work carried out by the National Assembly.
The Government’s proposals focus on three priority objectives that seek to strengthen fundamental social rights, with a view to creating conditions for upward social convergence among member States.

Favouring access to the labour market throughout Europe

Because it helps increase the sense of belonging to the Union as well as improve employability, mobility should be a right for all Europeans, young people in particular. The Government is promoting a number of measures to this end, seeking to facilitate mobility among apprentices, trainees, students, young jobseekers and workers in general.
It is also essential to improve employability and support life-long learning. In this regard, the personal activity account introduced in France could well constitute a model to be disseminated at European level. It would give every individual a right to training, in the context of national schemes whose compatibility would be guaranteed in order to maintain such rights’ portability. There is also much room for improvement in integrating young people into employment, NEETs (those not in education, employment or training) in particular.

Instituting fair working conditions

The second objective seeks to ensure fair and equitable working conditions, via institution of a national minimum wage in all member States. It is also necessary to:
  • complete revision of the directive on posting of workers in order to ensure effective implementation of the principle of “equal pay for equal work in the same workplace”,
  • continue the revision of regulations for coordination of social security schemes recently undertaken in order to counter social fraud more efficiently,
  • strengthen European harmonisation with regard to thresholds for professional exposure to dangerous substances,
  • make progress with regard to professional gender equality.
In addition, the Government has requested the European Commission to promote two initiatives:
  • introduction of due diligence measures in very large companies, in order to prevent risks of serious violations of human rights and to health resulting from their activities,
  • definition of a core of fundamental rights attached to the person of the worker, whatever his or her status.

Protecting citizens against the hazards of life

The third objective aims to protect citizens against the hazards of life at a time when the global economy is undergoing major changes.
To this end, France hopes to see a European-level initiative in favour of universalisation of a guaranteed minimum income for all adult individuals, even when they are not in employment, in all member States. Similarly, each State should guarantee access to an ambitiously scaled “health basket” and treatment in the event of long-term illness, and ensure that workers receive adequate replacement income in the event of sickness or maternity, whatever their status.
Finally, the “European Globalisation Adjustment Fund” could be made more responsive and its field of application widened in order to encompass more situations. It might be more active in anticipation of restructurings as well as in assisting small and medium-sized enterprises.
Beyond these proposals in favour of a more robust social Europe, it would seem essential that the recommendations for reforms made by the Commission in the context of the “European Semester” incorporate a real social dimension, taking better account of the social and environmental impact of the proposed measures, and that quality European social dialogue be developed.
A meeting of European Ministers of Labour will be organised in Paris in the first week of March, in order to amend, deepen and enrich the French proposals and to ensure the widest possible consensus on these proposals.
Bernard Cazeneuve speaking with Commissioner Marianne Thyssen
Meeting with European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen
On 15 February, the Prime Minister received the European Commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility. There being no doubt that a strong partnership between the European Union’s institutions and its member States is more than ever essential in order to confront the common challenges of an evolving single market, the meeting provided an opportunity for them to discuss (among other things):
  • revision of the 1996 directive on posting of workers, which is essential to a fairer and more equitable domestic market,
  • extension and expansion of the Youth Employment Initiative,
  • the European Commission’s European Pillar of Social Rights project, which should act as a driver of member States’ upward social convergence. Bernard Cazeneuve reiterated his support for the idea of a European minimum wage, which was also recently alluded to by the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
See the communiqué published following the meeting (in French).


Towards a European Pillar of Social Rights

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