Decent work in a fair labour market

A “more flexible” labour market has been a core element of the «first-generation structural reforms» pushed through by Conservatives so far. This has been misguided.

This ideology served as the rationale for weakening employment protection, limiting workers’ and trade unions’ rights and decreasing unemployment benefits.

The touted gains in productivity and competitiveness have yet to be demonstrated. But the increase of in-work poverty, and the precarious contracts that resulted from these reforms, are plain to see. So are the persistently dramatic levels of unemployment and poverty. All of this is evidence that we need another approach.

We need to stop thinking about competitiveness in terms of cost, and start thinking in terms of innovation, resilience and productivity.

We need to refocus our efforts on quality work and decent wages, otherwise competiveness will mean benefits for the few while the majority lose out.

What the Conservatives don’t understand is that there cannot be growth while there is income inequality! The OECD has said that that «income inequality has a negative and significant impact on growth…may it be through demand, investment, or deterioration of human capital».

Social dialogue is also essential, and the European Commission has recognised this by noting, «In countries where social dialogue is well established, the economic situation tends to be more favourable and subject to less strain. Also, countries with strong social dialogue are among the most competitive in Europe»



We need decent minimum wages in all member states.

PES proposals:

  • We must pursue an upwards convergence of social standards! This would prevent employment and social policies being the first to suffer in the event of economic shock. Harmonised standards could be set, which would ensure protection and prevent social dumping across Europe.

  • We must introduce decent minimum wages! A fair minimum wage should be established in every member state, either by law or through collective borrowing. This would help prevent in-work poverty and reduce inequalities. At the same time, unfair wage competition and low wages in some countries are one of the major reasons for reduced consumption and investment in Europe.

  • We must get the youth guarantee up to full speed! This guarantee was set up in 2012 to oversee the functioning of employment services and education systems. But it still requires further efforts to reach full speed and should thus be better monitored within the European Semester. To support its full implementation, an increase of the Youth Employment Initiative’s financing to €21 billion a year should be considered, as well as an extension of its age limit to 30.

  • We must introduce minimum standards for active labour market policies! This would ensure that these policies provide effective support to find a job - notably guidance and re-training suited to individual needs. We need to stop penalising the unemployed and reducing their rights.

  • We must reduce the segmentation of labour markets! This should be done by facilitating access to quality employment, without reducing rights. We need to end precarious and zero hour contracts, and to support the upwards convergence towards common labour standards.

  • We must take measures to reconcile professional and private life! This would boost productivity by supporting workers‘ motivation and health. Investment in quality childcare and elderly care is an important means to enable more women and men to join the labour market.

  • We must promote diversity and fight discrimination! This should be encouraged via dialogue and actions with trade unions, professional organisations and employers. Protecting LGBTI people or people with migrant background should be a particular focus.

  • We must have a binding target of narrowing the pay gap by 2% annually! Women are still on average paid less than men, and reducing this gap would be a strong step forward for gender equality. A revised maternity leave directive should guarantee a minimum level of paid leave and protection in the EU.

  • We must strengthen social dialogue and collective bargaining! This should be done through workplace democracy within companies as well as greater social partnership within sectors. It would help to build trust relationships between workers and employers, and support the identification of better models of work organisation enabling initiative and creativity as well as decentralised, situation-adequate, flexible solutions for adapting to changing economic and social conditions.

An efficient protection for a fair growth

Social challenges and inequalities are on the rise in Europe. But at the same time, austerity has put strong pressure on social protection systems. 
If it is important to adapt social protection to the challenges of an ageing society and to contain its cost so that it remains sustainable. It is not acceptable nor economically desirable to simply cut public social expenditures.

Social protection, in addition to its positive impacts, acts as an economic stabiliser both on demand and on supply.

Social expenditure contributes to fighting inequalities, to increased purchasing power and to higher domestic demand. Thus, it supports economic growth.

Social investments such as in education, vocational training and lifelong learning systems, labour market transitions, childcare and other social services are essential to ensure that well-skilled, highly-motivated and healthy workers can contribute to economic progress throughout their lives.

Minimum income schemes and similar safety nets have a vital purpose: they support social inclusion and help people make a fresh start in their lives.

These measures are not just about social justice. They are also about economic efficiency.



Reinforce the European social model.

PES proposals:

  • We must introduce minimum income schemes Europe-wide! This would help reduce poverty and combat inequalities, while also helping to ensure that macro-economic adjustment happens in a socially sensible way.

  • We must ensure universal access to primary healthcare! This is a social investment that can help to reduce unnecessary recourse to specialist and hospital care, thus lowering health expenses.

  • We must focus on pre-distribution! High-quality education and social services must be accessible to all. This would strengthen people’s skills and capacities to participate fully in employment and social life from cradle to old age. Combined with robust re-distributional safety nets, a social investment approach helps to strengthen people’s resilience to deal with economic shocks.

  • We must reform our pension systems! Demographic developments make it unavoidable that some adjustments need to be made to pension systems. While increasing effective retirement ages is important to ensure pension systems‘ sustainability and adequacy, in full respect of national specificities, it is important to calibrate pension reforms in a way to better reflect differences in the arduousness of work across occupations. At the same time, trainings, services and pension system arrangements supporting active ageing need to be promoted, so as to encourage more people to remain economically active beyond their statutory retirement age if they want.

  • We must tackle the gender pension gap! This could be done by reducing the gender employment and pay gap, and also by better taking account of care activity, whether for women or men.

  • We must re-orient our pension funds towards long-term investment! Both public and private pension funds should be re-oriented toward investments with a lower risk level. This would prevent both short term financial gambling and contributors’ risk of losing their pensions.

  • We must limit exemptions to employer social security obligations! To ensure the sustainability of social protection, exemptions to social contributions by companies need to be re-examined. When such exemptions are used, the social system’s budget should be systematically compensated. More progressive formulas for social security contributions may be needed in light of increasing income inequalities.

Meeting the challenges of a changing economy

The social economy, characterised by both the provision of goods and services to society and the pursuit of general interest goals, can strongly complement public services and widen the supply of social services.

It also constitutes a high-potential sector for job creation and significantly contributes to economic development.

Although a social economy cannot replace the state’s role in providing public services, it is a relevant economic sector and a source of new approaches to the delivery of such services.

At the same time, other forms of economy, work organisation and entrepreneurial models are developing. They open new opportunities and bring new challenges for the European social model.

But, in order to ensure the sustainability of the this model, it is important that it meets the challenges and seized the opportunities which the changing economy creates.


Social partners’ involvement is essential

PES proposals:

  • We must invest in social services! Organisations involved in the social economy can have a hard time accessing finance. Making this access easier would support the creation of jobs, particularly for disadvantaged workers. It would also contribute to the well-being of the entire population and a stronger cohesion.

  • We must promote the provision of social assistance and advice! Sectors such as strategic planning, consulting services and business incubators can support the further development of the social economy.

  • We must have a clear legal framework across Europe! More homogenous legislation in Europe would lift barriers to the development of social economy activities.

  • We must have balanced partnerships between public authorities and social actors! Stronger partnerships could develop more effective ways to provide services to the public and to finance innovation. This would contribute to economic growth and job creation. Stronger partnerships would also strengthen the sharing of practices between the public and private sector.

  • We must support new entrepreneurial models! New models favouring the reinvestment of profits, the mutualisation of company ownership, and worker participation in company governance should be supported as innovation-friendly ways of doing business.

  • We must clarify a legal framework for the sharing economy! The sharing economy, which has been made famous by companies like Uber and AirBnB, opens new models of both consumption and provision of services. Nevertheless it poses challenges in terms of compliance with social legislation and tax policies and thus calls for an adequate legal framework to be developed focusing on the commercial aspects of the sharing economy. We need to ensure legal certainty and fair competition for operators, especially with respect to working conditions and taxation.

  • We must reinforce companies’ corporate social and environmental responsibility! A failure to comply with corporate responsibility commitments should be punished with appropriate sanctions, in particular throughout the supply-chain liability. All companies in a sub-contracting chain should be made potentially liable for environmental or social abuses, even if those happen outside the EU.

  • We must maintain social partners’ involvement in this journey! To adapt to changing employment patterns and working conditions, social partners’ involvement is essential for a transition to a new productivity and competitiveness model that reinforces rather than weakens social standards and workers protection.


A Europe that performs,
is not possible without a Europe
that protects and enables.

Less inequalities, more growth

Name: Sara
Age: 28
Carrer wish: To earn a good salary and hold a senior position.
Hobbies: Playing guitar


  • Youth Guarantee
  • Minimum wage
  • Workers’ rights
  • Innovation
  • Social dialogue

Name: Tom
Age: 45
Carrer wish: Flexible work which allows him to enjoy a good work life balance.
Hobbies: Jogging

A Europe
that protects

  • Fight discrimination
  • Gender Equality
  • Minimum income
  • Social services
  • Childcare and elderly care
  • Universal access to healthcare
  • Fair pension system

Name: Sara’s father
Age: 70
Benefiting from the social services. But he and other people at his age are the reason more jobs to be created.

A more social

  • Quality public services
  • Job creation
  • Invest in social services
  • Support the social and cooperative economy
  • Working for the public good