European Semester

European Commission sets out EU’s economic and social priorities for 2018

Immediately after the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights on 17th November, the European Commission released its economic and social priorities for 2018 in its Annual Growth Survey (AGS). Building on previous guidance, and taking account of Member States’ different situations in the economic cycle, and taking into account the 20 principles of the Social Rights Pillar, the AGS calls on national governments to boost investment as a way to support the expansion and to increase productivity and long-term growth. The Commission also recommends further structural reforms that are needed to make Europe’s economy more stable, inclusive, productive and resilient.

Various recommendations are made to boost investment and support economic recovery, including the following:

  • Investment in affordable, accessible and quality services. Services such as childcare, out-of-school care, education, training, housing, health services and long-term care are essential for ensuring equal opportunities for all. Adequate social housing and other housing assistance are also essential. This also entails protecting vulnerable people against unjustified  forced eviction and foreclosures, as well as tackling homelessness.
  • Investments in high quality education, training, labour productivity growth and active labour market policies – these are considered crucial for empowering people and integrating them in the labour market, which remains the best vehicle out of poverty and social exclusion. It is essential to provide people with the right skills and support them through a changing labour market. The development of digital skills is particularly necessary.

Recommendations are also made for structural reforms for inclusive growth, upward convergence and competitiveness, including the following:

Social protection and inclusion to tackle inequality and poverty

  • Social protection systems should provide adequate and well-targeted income support, foster labour market participation and ensure equal access to quality services.
  • Member States should ensure the sustainability and adequacy of pension systems for all.
  • Reforms of health care and long-term care systems need to be pursued to enhance their cost-effectiveness, ensure their fiscal sustainability and ensure quality, affordable access.
  • Social protection and labour market policies must also adapt to evolving forms of employment and increased labour mobility.

Job creation and fair working conditions

  • Barriers to employment should be reduced, especially for disadvantaged groups, including single parent households, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, refugees and migrants.
  • Promoting work-life balance is crucial for gender equality and increased female labour market participation. Ensuring access to quality services for all, such as childcare and early education, is important. Taxation systems that do not penalise second-earners and the provision of suitable family leave and flexible working arrangements for parents and carers also improve work-life balance.

Promoting well-functioning labour markets and modern welfare systems

  • Globalisation and technological progress are changing the way we live and work. There has been an increase in the use of more flexible and non-standard forms of employment. This may represent an opportunity for companies to adjust their business cycles and for individuals to adjust their career patterns towards their desired work-life balance. However, it also raises questions about job security, earnings, working conditions and could lead to exclusion from social protection. It is therefore of paramount importance to have in place labour and social protection legislation that responds to these new realities in the labour market.

COFACE Families Europe urges National governments to take up these recommendations, namely using the European Pillar of Social Rights as a compass to guide decisions on investments and the structural reforms needed to help families reconcile their professional and private lives.

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