When Federal Minister Hubertus Heil first chaired the meeting of European ministers for employment and social policy in a virtual format on 17 July 2020 one thing quickly became clear: During Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union many things would be different. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs therefore held presidency events mainly in virtual formats, enabling social partners, associations, civil society and many individuals from all over Europe to contribute ideas and exchange views on the ministry’s topics in various online conferences.
Four focal points, one hashtag: #MySocialEurope
Fair wages, good working conditions, social security - the Corona pandemic has shown once again how important it is for our society to stand on a foundation of social values. This is true for the whole of Europe. For this reason, Federal Minister Heil focused on strengthening the social dimension of Europe.
Federal Minister Hubertus Heil made the following statement:
Especially now, social concerns must not take a back seat to economic concerns. Economic recovery and social progress have to go hand in hand. Especially now we need greater protection against poverty and social exclusion, which means that we must continue to strengthen our welfare states. The past few months have shown that our resilient welfare states have helped us get through the crisis better, not worse by global comparison.
Under #MySocialEurope, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has set four priorities. Working together with its EU partners it has advocated for
- fair wages and social security
- good working conditions for seasonal workers and other mobile workers
- good working conditions in the new digital world of work, too,
- and decent work worldwide.
Many concrete results in the area of employment and social policy
European projects in the field of employment and social policy are guided by the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has promoted considerable progress in implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights, particularly through the following projects.
During Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, discussions began on the Commission's proposal for a directive on adequate minimum wages in the EU. The proposal for a directive aims at creating an EU-wide framework for setting adequate minimum wages in order to improve the working and living conditions in the Union. Strengthening collective bargaining coverage and the social partnership is a very important part of the proposal.
It was also possible to establish basic principles for national minimum income schemes in the EU member states. Both these projects contribute to reducing social inequality in the EU, keeping countries from competing on the basis of excessively low wages for workers and strengthening social security in Europe. (Learn more about fair wages and social security here)
For the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the situation of seasonal workers and other mobile workers was also one of the central topics of Germany’s presidency. In the summer, outbreaks of corona in the meat industry revealed the miserable conditions under which seasonal workers sometimes have to work as well as a serious lack of occupational health and safety measures. Seasonal workers must not be considered second-class employees. Federal Minister Heil and his fellow ministers thus called for the rights of seasonal workers to be enforced more consistently in future and for them to receive more information about support in the country where they work. (Read more about protecting seasonal workers here)
Another focus of the European policies of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs was on those who still have their working life ahead of them. The EU Youth Guarantee programme has been strengthened to provide even better support for young people who are starting their training or careers. For example, more young people are to be included among the beneficiaries of support by raising the age limit to 29 from under 25. (Read more about strengthening the Youth Guarantee here)
Important debates launched
Under the leadership of Federal Minister Hubertus Heil, the European employment and social policy ministers also made progress in policy debates on the future. This included working conditions for employees of online platforms, which was one of the central topics at the final meeting of ministers in December 2020. The transformation of the world of work, also given the Corona pandemic, means that the number of people working on platforms is increasing, although in many cases social security is insufficient. Now is therefore the right time to act. Federal Minister Hubertus Heil had therefore already drawn up proposals at national level and the issue is now being addressed at EU level. (Learn more about the key ideas of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on fair platform work here).
The same applies to decent work and human rights in global supply chains. The EU sees itself as a union based on common values. It must therefore stand up for the rights of those people around the world who make the products on our supermarket shelves and in our online stores. To achieve this, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs held a digital conference titled "Global Supply Chains – Global Responsibility", which provided an important boost for an EU action plan on human rights and decent work in global supply chains. It was clear that globally operating European companies must live up to their responsibilities. (Learn more about the Global Supply Chains - Global Responsibility conference here)
More than 11,000 participants in the discussions
The conference "Global Supply Chains – Global Responsibility" was not the only digital event open to the public organised by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. In September, Federal Minister Hubertus Heil welcomed numerous EU policy-makers, representatives of the social partners and civil society and around 1,000 citizens from all over Europe to the conference "Our Social Europe - Strong Together" - the main event of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs during the presidency. Participants were able to experience insightful panel discussions and interactive workshops on topics such as minimum wages in Europe and solutions in the fight against youth unemployment. (Learn more about the conference here).
In addition to those two conferences, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs organised various online panels with live streaming, for example on the topic of continuing education in times of digital transformation and the Corona crisis. In total, more than 11,000 people took part in the events organised by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. This shows that European policies are important to people: Europe concerns us all. (Read more about the online panel here).
Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil said in summary: "We have achieved a lot and set many things in motion over the last six months in the EU in the fields of fair wages, the future of work, the protection of seasonal workers and decent working conditions in global supply chains. Because of the Corona crisis we had to make a joint effort, which shows that we can overcome challenges when we act in solidarity. Together, we have made our social Europe stronger."
On 1 January 2021, Germany will hand over the presidency to Portugal. Federal Minister Hubertus Heil and his ministry wish Ana Mendes Godinho, Portugal’s Minister for Employment, Solidarity, and Social Security, the best of luck.