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Our social Europe – strong together

Working together for fair wages and social security

A crowd at a protest action. A demonstrant carries a European flag.

Working, yet in poverty? Worried about falling through the cracks via unemployment? Both cannot be allowed to happen. That is why the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) wants to work together with all member states to improve social fairness in Europe during Germany’s European Union (EU) Council Presidency.

The EU stands for prosperity, democracy, freedom and decent living standards. We all benefit from these achievements and we must safeguard them, especially in times of crisis. That is why the BMAS wants to expand Europe’s strong social dimension during Germany’s presidency.

Two issues will receive special attention: minimum wages for workers and guaranteed minimum incomes for those in need. Everyone in the EU should have the right to a decent life and be adequately rewarded for their work.

Raising incomes at the lower end of the scale makes sense not only socially, but also economically.

Hubertus Heil, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs

Europe has already taken the first steps with both projects: The Commission has been looking into EU-wide regulation of minimum wages since January 2020. In 2017, the member states adopted an agreed roadmap for Europe’s social dimension in the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) - including statutory minimum wages and a guaranteed minimum income. To meet these social pledges, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs wants to advance both issues materially during the presidency.

Focussing on the interests of workers

Minimum wages can prevent in-work poverty. In the European Union, twenty-two member states have minimum wages; in the five others, collective agreements guarantee a statutory minimum. However, the level of the minimum wage differs greatly between EU member states. At the same time, about one in ten employees in Europe is considered at risk of poverty.

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs therefore is focussing on the interests of all workers in Europe: We want to work with the member states to establish a European framework for fair and adequate minimum wages. The BMAS is particularly committed to a strong role for the social partners and common minimum standards for defining and developing national minimum wages.

People in need should be able to participate in society

At the same time, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will work to combat social exclusion and enable those in need in the EU to take a full part in society. Although minimum income protection schemes have now been introduced in all EU Member States, the differences in benefits are still very substantial - and social security payments are often inadequate. We want to figure out how member states can further improve their social safety nets for those in need. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is therefore going to discuss common principles for national minimum income protection with its EU partners.

Reducing social inequality, preventing excessively low wages, strengthening social protections

Both initiatives - on minimum wages and minimum income - help reduce social inequality in the EU, prevent countries from competing on a race to the bottom based on wages and strengthen social protection in Europe, thus providing an important foundation for a strong, resilient European economy.