Saturday, 7 October 2017

Companion to European Pillar of Social Rights

Under the fifth of the Juncker Commission’s ten priorities, A deeper and fairer economic and monetary union -  #deepeningEMU - we find the policy area a European Pillar of Social Rights - #SocialRights on Twitter.

With the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth on 17 November 2017 approaching, #SocialSummit17 on Twitter, we already looked at the Consultation Report on European Pillar of Social Rights and Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights, where I promised to look at the accompanying detailed Commission staff working document.

The companion SWD(2017) 201

Although I wondered why the Commission made so little hay out of the guiding principles, namely the social aims of Article 3(3) TEU and Article 9 TFEU, the communication COM(2017) 250 is a lucid summary of the Social Pillar. However, for detail people with a professional interest can turn to the accompanying staff working document SWD(2017) 201.  
Even if we have to limit our comments to a few remarks, in this blog post we are going to look at the detailed staff working document, but let us begin by recalling the almost full coordinates of the official document:

SWD accompanying the communication Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights; Brussels, 26.4.2017 SWD(2017) 201 final (77 pages)

Twenty principles

The SWD(2017) 201 is the companion publication to the communication COM(2017) 250, best read in parallel as a detailed commentary, or used as a reference tool for each of the twenty principles and rights, which constitute the core of the Social Pillar (page 2):

This document follows the structure of the three chapters of the European Pillar of Social Rights detailing the contents of each principle or right. Each one of these is presented in three main sections, covering the existing social acquis, an explanation of its content and scope, and suggestions with regard to its implementation.  

Here are the principles and rights, and at the same time the main structure of the staff working document, with a few pages dedicated to each principle in a systematic manner:

Chapter I Equal opportunities and access to the labour market  
  1. Education, training and life-long learning
  2. Gender equality
  3. Equal opportunities
  4. Active support to employment  

Chapter II Fair working conditions
5. Secure and adaptable employment
6. Wages
7. Information about employment conditions and protection in case of dismissals
8. Social dialogue and involvement of workers
9. Work-life balance
10. Healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment and data protection

Chapter III Social protection and inclusion
11. Childcare and support to children
12. Social protection
13. Unemployment benefits
14. Minimum income
15. Old age income and pensions
16. Health care
17. Inclusion of people with disabilities
18. Long-term care
19. Housing and assistance for the homeless
20. Access to essential services   


In this document the European Commission provides a useful full house of detailed provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), acts and recommendations, plus recent and promised initiatives at an operational level.

Where new forms of employment, including self-employment, or groups outside the scope of current provisions appear, the Commission wants to upgrade the EU acquis. The principles also indicate what national authorities and social partners can do, in processes where the member states can learn from each other.

The systematic character of the staff working document invites use as a reference by people in (national) administrations or teaching EU social policy.

However, as in the other Social Pillar documents, the Commission hardly mentions  the strategic level main guiding aims and principles - the North Star of the EU Treaties - namely Article 3(3) TEU (EU objectives) and Article 9 TFEU (horizontal social clause).

Social Pillar progress

Readers interested in Social Pillar progress can turn to the Commission staff working document on the Social Scoreboard SWD(2017) 200 monitoring tool, benchmarking performances of EU member states in twelve areas of societal progress. The Social Scoreboard web page offers a first harvest of findings.

An update on concrete proposals is offered by the flyer Social dimension of Europe - overview of initiatives, which lists proposals from November 2014 to October 2017, offering links and current status.

Ralf Grahn

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