The annual event of the ESF Transnational Platform took place in Brussels on 1 and 2 June, bringing together delegates from 26 EU Member States from ESF Managing Authorities, Intermediate Bodies, social partners, non-governmental organisations and projects – as well as from European institutions and umbrella organisations. This date was a key moment for the ESF community to take stock of what has been learned throughout this second year of activity, to work across the themes of the nine ESF Networks, and also to explore new ways to strengthen transnational cooperation and to enhance the impact of the ESF. COFACE Families Europe is a member of this transnational platform, voicing the concerns and needs of families in relation to topics like social inclusion, long-term unemployment and partnership building.
At this conference, for the first time we helped organise a workshop on the contribution of the European Social Fund to work-life balance, making the link between recent EU policy/legislative developments and EU funding priorities under the European Social Fund.
In terms of policy guidance, the European Commission put forward proposals on 26th April which include the following: “Continue to develop the provision of accessible, affordable and quality childcare, out-of-school and long-term care services, including by using support from the ESF and the ERDF; In light of country-specific recommendations and in case of insufficient funding earmarked to address the relevant challenges identified in the European semester, request Member States to review the programming of European Structural and Investment funds (ESIF)”.
In terms of funding, the cross-cutting principles of the European Structural and Investment Funds include “Promotion of equality between men and women and non-discrimination”, and “Addressing demographic change” which includes improved balance between working and family life. In addition, the ESF thematic objective ‘promoting sustainable and quality employment and supporting labour mobility’, includes a section on “Equality between men and women in all areas, including in access to employment, career progression, reconciliation of work and private life and promotion of equal pay for equal work”.
In the presence of the European Commission and the European Social Partners (European Trade Union Confederation) and Business Europe, COFACE examined different ESF-type interventions possible based on its reconciliation policy checklist. A general outcome of the workshop was to recommend a European Commission mapping of current Work-life balance interventions funded under the European Social Fund.