During their first videoconference in the framework of Germany's Presidency of the Council of the EU i, employment and social policy ministers talked about the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their discussions focused on the question how social protection systems and enhanced occupational safety and health can contribute to the EU’s social and economic recovery. Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil chaired the conference, which not only brought together his EU counterparts but was also attended by EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmit i and high-ranking representatives of the European social partners.
Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil said:
The pandemic hit all of us suddenly. We must now come out of the crisis stronger than before and be better prepared for the future. A key lesson is that if we want a Europe with a strong economy we must also work for a Social Europe. It is the combination of growth and social security that helps us overcome crises and fosters innovation, progress and creativity. That is why we want to ensure better protection against poverty and social exclusion as well as good working conditions. People from different member states must not be played off against each other. We want everybody in the EU to be able to live their lives with security and dignity. At the same time, it will be a crucial task during the next few months to design tomorrow’s world of work as well as to promote decent work worldwide. Human rights know no boundaries.
During their video conference, the employment and social policy ministers discussed the following topics:
-The contribution of social protection systems to the recovery from the crisis
Although national social protection systems vary, they make an important contribution to the economic recovery as they protect jobs and incomes. That is why ministers’ discussions did not just revolve around the strengthening of these systems, but also included options for expanded access in order to also cover people in non-standard employment. Furthermore, the pandemic has affected member states to different degrees. For this reason, it will be all the more important now to avoid further social cleavages in the EU.
-Health and safety at work
The pandemic has made it clear that health, occupational safety and health and economic success go hand in hand. This is why rules on safety and health at work should be designed in such a way that they do as much as possible to prevent a lockdown of economic and social life. At the same time, the pandemic has led to the emergence of flexible working arrangements, which have served us well. These arrangements can create opportunities for workers, but must not result in less protection and security.
-Better enforcement of the rights of seasonal and mobile workers
The corona pandemic has demonstrated that seasonal workers, for example in the meat industry, often face questionable living and working conditions. That is why Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil and his European counterparts will search for solutions to better enforce the rights of these workers in practice in future, while also reducing social inequality, preventing social dumping and strengthening social protection.