ILO joins informal EPSCO meeting on Priorities for a stronger social Europe

Speaking to the EU Ministers for Employment and Social Policy, the ILO Director-General underlined the need to invest in people, in the institutions of work, and in the jobs of the future. He welcomed the process towards an Action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, which is of strategic importance for the recovery.

News | 22 February 2021
The ILO participated in an informal meeting of the EU Ministers for Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO), which focussed on “Jobs, qualifications and cohesion: Priorities of a stronger social Europe”.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder acknowledged that the crisis in labour markets is not over yet. The situation remains very difficult, including in many EU countries.

“We have before us the task of recovery and of building a future of work which tackles the injustices that the pandemic has highlighted, together with the permanent challenges of climate, digital and demographic transition that can no longer be postponed,” he said.

The ILO’s latest analysis of the labour market impact of COVID-19 confirms the massive damage inflicted by the pandemic, with 8.8 per cent of global working hours lost in 2020 compared to the last quarter of 2019. This is the equivalent of 252.5 million full time jobs. For the EU-27, the loss amounts to the equivalent of 15.2 million full time jobs. Certain sectors have been particularly hard hit: food, accommodation, everything connected to travel and to tourism, but also the retail sector and manufacturing.

The pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in labour markets and societies, and poverty and inequalities within and across countries.

The ILO Director-General reminded the Ministers that more than 2 billion informal workers across the world have no social protection at all to cope with the crisis. Other population groups, notably women and young workers are in positions of sometimes acute vulnerability. “The discrepancy between haves and have-nots in multiple respects has never been so clear,” said Mr Ryder.

“We need to invest in people, in their capacities and skills, in the institutions of work, and in the jobs of the future, particularly for youth and vulnerable people,” he said.

These priorities stated in the ILO Centenary Declaration are very much enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights and they will be further developed in the Action Plan for its implementation that is being prepared by the European Commission. The ILO actively contributed to the consultations on this Action Plan.

“Warmly welcoming this process and underlining its strategic importance for recovery, I believe that the impact of this Action Plan would be considerably strengthened by the inclusion of measurable targets and goals,” he added.

The Social Pillar provides a framework for contributing to building a post-COVID world of work in line with the founding values of the ILO, especially that of social dialogue and tripartism as essential parts of crisis response.

The ILO Director-General also called for the support of the EU for a multilateral response to the COVID-19 crisis. “Last year, governments around the world spent some US$ 12 trillion in response to the crisis. This money was spent by individual countries to meet their own needs. Yet this is a global crisis that requires a global answer. So we need to join our efforts together, in the labour and social fields as much as in health, and to do so at the national, regional and international levels. And it is in this context that the long-lasting cooperation between the EU and the ILO that we just renewed earlier this month can play a significant role,” he said.

The way forward

Heinz Koller, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, addressed two sessions at the Conference.

The baseline scenario in the ILO Monitor on COVID-19 and the world of work projects global working hour losses down to 3 per cent in 2021 compared to the last quarter of 2019. That is still the equivalent of 87 million full-time jobs lost, and in the EU, those losses are expected to be nearly 6 per cent this year.

“We now need solid and sustainable solutions, not just short-term responses,” said Mr Koller. “The ILO would welcome the definition by the EU and its Member States of quantifiable objectives for employment, skills, etc. We would suggest an even more comprehensive approach in linking such objectives to the targets and indicators of the UN Sustainable Development Goals regarding poverty, gender, decent work and inequalities.”

We must ensure that the world of work is equitable, accessible, inclusive, and leaves no one behind. “This means more investments in the real economy for jobs, sustainable incomes, and for extended social protection and better working conditions for all, including for all vulnerable groups,” he concluded.