European society is changing, influenced by different factors such astechnological progress, the globalisation of trade and an ageingpopulation. European employment, social affairs and equalopportunities policies contribute to improving people’s livingconditions with a view to sustainable growth and greater socialcohesion. The European Union (EU) plays the role of a trigger in socialchange. It has introduced a protective legal framework for Europeancitizens. It fosters the cooperation of Member States, the coordinationand harmonisation of national policies, and the participation of localauthorities, unions, employers’ organisations and other stakeholdersinvolved.The priority aims of this policy are to increase employment andworker mobility, to improve the quality of jobs and, workingconditions, to inform and consult workers, to combat poverty andsocial exclusion, to promote equality between men and women, and tomodernise social protection systems
Social and employment situation in europeStatistical data which can be compared at European level are essentialfor the monitoring of social and labour market developments in theEuropean Union. They are used in particular to assess the impact ofeconomic and demographic changes on the labour market. In thisrespect, the Commission has set up systems for collecting statisticalinformation used to establish performance indicators. It also supportsthe analysis work undertaken by the Member States through theCommunity Programme for Employment and Solidarity, and the workof the European Employment Observatory. All this information isrecorded in annual reports.
For the EU to emerge from the economic crisis, preventing risingunemployment from becoming entrenched is a priority. In addition, the EU isfacing an ageing workforce and increased international competition.Structural reforms are therefore needed to improve labour market flexibility,secure the availability of a skilled workforce ?including through economicmigration and put in place modern social policies. The aim must be to havemore people in work, working more productively. Flexicurity should be at theheart of the European employment strategy and the leading principle in thedevelopment of social policy. Employment, social and immigration policiesmust be adapted to the diversity of situations in the Member States.
BUSINESSEUROPE is actively engaged in the European social dialogue inorder to find solutions reconciling economic and social needs of labourmarket players, and to devise concrete arrangements that benefit bothcompanies and employees
List of commissioners Name Country Period Commission1 Lionello Levi Sandri Italy 1967–1970 Rey Commission Malfatti Commission,2 Albert Coppé Belgium 1970–1973 Mansholt Commission3 Patrick Hillery Ireland 1973–1977 Ortoli Commission4 Henk Vredeling Netherlands 1977–1981 Jenkins Commission5 Ivor Richard United Kingdom 1981–1985 Thorn Commission6 Peter Sutherland Ireland 1985–1989 Delors Commission I7 Vasso Papandreou Greece 1989–1992 Delors Commission II Delors Commission III, Santer8 Pádraig Flynn Ireland 1993–1999 Commission, Marín Commission9 Anna Diamantopoulou Greece 1999–2004 Prodi Commission10 Vladimír Špidla Czech Republic 2004–2010 Barroso Commission I11 László Andor Hungary 2010 onwards Barroso Commission II
Social protectionFrom a worldwide perspective, the European Union (EU) is clearly a modelof social protection. Unemployment, poor health, invalidity, familysituations and old age are some of the risks which these systems were createdto deal with. The systems also guarantee access to several services that arevital to the preservation of human dignity. Although the Member States areresponsible for organising and funding social protection systems, the EU hasa special role to play by introducing legislation which coordinates thenational social security systems, particularly with regard to mobility withinthe Community. The EU recently committed itself to promoting closercooperation between the Member States in modernising their socialprotection systems, which face similar challenges throughout the EU.
Employment rights and work organisation The European Union has minimum requirements in the field of labour rights and work organisation. These requirements concern collective redundancies, insolvency and the transfer of undertakings, the consultation and information of workers,working hours, equal treatment and pay, and posted workers. They have beensupplemented by framework agreements between the European social partners.This has led to the introduction throughout the EU of the right to parental leaveand leave for family reasons, and has facilitated part-time work and limited theuse of successive fixed-term contracts. Lastly, the concept of corporate socialresponsability encourages businesses to adopt good practices in the social fieldon a voluntary basis. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Livingand Working Conditions makes recommendations to the political decision-makers.
Social dialogue and employee participationDialogue with the social partners constitutes one of the pillars of the Europeansocial model. Firmly anchored in the Treaty establishing the EuropeanCommunity, it embraces discussions, consultations, negotiations and joint actionsinvolving the representative social partner organisations. The European socialdialogue, which can be bipartite or tripartite, supplements the national socialdialogue arrangements which exist in most Member States. Based on theprinciples of solidarity, responsibility and participation, it constitutes the mainchannel through which the social partners contribute to the establishing ofEuropean social standards and play a vital role in the governance of the Union.
Community employment policies The European Union’s work contributes to reducing rates of unemployment and improving the quality of jobs, in particular through the Lisbon Strategy forgrowth and jobs. In the context of the international financial crisis, additionalmeasures have been taken to protect existing jobs and to create newopportunities.Each year, more than EUR 10 billion are invested through the European SocialFund (ESF) to improve job prospects for the population. Projects, co-financed byMember States, support companies in adapting to developments in the economicand social situation. They promote access to lifelong learning and training inorder to develop workers’ skills.