17th Oct 2021


The labour market is not ready for the future

The president of the committee for employment and social affairs (EMPL), Lucia Duris Nicholsonova (ECR, Slovakia), writes in her welcome to the committee website that EMPL is "responsible for employment and all aspects of social policy including working conditions, social security, social inclusion and social protection; the free movement of workers and pensioners; workers' rights; health and safety measures at the workplace; the European Social Fund; vocational training policy, including professional qualifications; social dialogue; and all forms of discrimination at the workplace and in the labour market except those based on sex."

However, her most important worry is that "we are not ready for the challenge of ageing population, climate and digital transformation."

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Duris Nicholsonova quotes figures from the European Commission saying that "around 17 percent of jobs in the EU are at risk of being automated and nearly one-in-three jobs will change significantly. The jobs threat from automation is varying from less than 10 percent in Finland to shocking 33 percent in Slovakia.

"Moreover," she continues, "in spite of a downward trend in the last years, still a shocking 22.4 percent of the Union population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the Union in 2017, and 24.9 percent of children are concerned by poverty and social exclusion (from 14.2 percent in Czech Republic to 41.7 percent in Romania)."

These figures summarise the challenges of the EMPL committee.

With the commission, the committee will discuss the European Pillar of Social Rights and a number of initiatives within it, such as Child Guarantee and full implementation of the Work-Life Balance Directive.

On top of that, Duris Nicholsonova promises to "keep on fighting poverty more efficiently and guarantee children access to basic services such as childcare," and to work on the pay and pension gap of female workers.

Despite the fact that all these dossiers seem to be consensual challenges, several political parties see different solutions.

But probably more important will be the divide between 'eastern' and 'western' member states.

According to Duris Nicholsonova "the differing level of employment social standards and rules on the cross-border provision of services, where they have a significant effect as competitive factors" have proved to be divisive between those states.

Here she hopes that as a president of the EMPL committee and as an "elected member of a 'new member state'" to play a role in bridging that gap.

The committee will also try to "have more efficient EU funding and avoid misusing of the funds on clearly inefficient or fraudulent projects".

An interesting new point on the agenda might come from the commission, as the committee called on it "to examine the possibility for a proposal for a European Social Security Number without undue delay."

It is clear that the EMPL committee will be one to watch in the years to come.

Coordinators: Dennis Radtke (EPP, Germany), Agnes Jongerius (S&D, Netherlands), Dragos Pislaru (Renew, Romania), Kira Marie Peter-Hansen (Greens/EFA, Denmark), France Jamet (ID, France), Elzbieta Rafalska (ECR, Poland), Nikolaj Villumsen (GUE/NGL, Denmark).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.
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