Job quality becomes EU focus

Employment and social affairs ministers are meeting for a three-day informal summit in Berlin, to discuss future social models in Europe and reforms necessary to reconcile the needs for flexibility and social security.

Ministers will discuss “Good jobs”, defined  along the following lines:  

  • Fair wages;
  • protection against health risks at work;
  • workers’ rights to assert their interests and to participate; 
  • family-friendly working arrangements, and;
  • enough jobs. 

The German government points out that “good jobs” correspond to the concept of flexicurity and that major elements for good jobs are:

  • Working conditions promoting lifelong learning and possibilties of vocational further training; 
  • adequate income;
  • social dialogue, dependent on national traditions;
  • participation and co-determniation in companies;
  • safety, health protection and prevention measures at the workplace; 
  • balance between flexibility and security; 
  • compatibility of work and private life, and; 
  • in-company integration management for the disabled. 

The Commission added that the concept of quality work also cover “how best to regulate new and atypical forms of employment so as to avoid labour market segmentation”. 

Addressing the European Parliament on 17 January 2006, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU; Christian Democrat) said: "To secure wealth, growth, employment and social security - briefly: to safeguard and develop Europe's social model within a framework of globalisation - is what citizens expect from European governments. This is therefore the second main focus of our work during our Council Presidency. The foundation of the Lisbon strategy is the vision of a Europe of strong growth and social security, which also respects its environment. The economy has started to grow, at an accelerating pace. But growth must not be an end to itself. When I hear 'growth', I think 'jobs'. My conviction is that employment must be chief. That is Social Europe."

The fourth European working conditions survey highlighted the importance of decent quality jobs and a good work-life balance for boosting workers' motivation, the creation of new jobs and increased productivity. However, the report also found that these conditions are not yet sufficiently met in many regions and sectors of the EU economy. Germany, which holds the EU Presidency during the first half of 2007 has, in spite of some signs of improve on its labour market, a persistent unemployment problem. 

The German grand coalition governement therefore decided to put "Good jobs" at the top of the agenada for an 18-21 January informal meeting of employment and social affairs ministers. The meeting will take place in the Berlin headquarters of Deusche Telekom; it will be chaired by German Employment and Social Affairs Minister Franz Müntefering, who is also a former chairman of the Social-Democrat Party (SPD, the party of former chancellor Gerhard Schröder). 

The ministerial meeting is preceded, on 18 January, by a meeting of the "Troika", (i.e. the employment and social affairs ministers of Germany and the next two countries to hold the EU Presidency, namely Portugal and Slovenia) with the social partners, the Platform of Social NGOs (Social Platform) and the European Parliament.

  • On 23 January, the European Year of of Equal Opportunities 2007 will be officially launched. 
  • On 22 February, ministers will meet for a formal Employment, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Affairs Council.
  • A consultation on the Commission's Green Paper on Labour Law will be closed on 31 March.
  • A Commission communication on flexicurity is planned for June. 

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