European Commission proposes an ambitious European Pillar of Social Rights
On 26 April 2017 the European Commission published its proposal for European Pillar of Social Rights. The European Pillar of Social Rights sets out 20 key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. It is primarily conceived for the euro area but applicable to all EU Member States wishing to be part of it. The initiative follows Commission President Juncker’s announcement in 2014 to work for a ‘social triple A’ for Europe – in order to give greater prominence to employment and social considerations in European policies. The proposal for EU Social Pillar also addresses the Rome Declaration of the leaders of 27 EU Member States on 25 March 2017 who stressed the importance of a strong social Europe, based on sustainable growth and promoting economic and social progress and cohesion.
The European Pillar of Social Rights is accompanied by a ‘social scoreboard’ which will monitor the implementation of the Pillar by tracking trends and performances across EU countries in 12 areas and will feed into the European Semester of economic policy coordination. The scoreboard will also serve to assess progress towards a social ‘triple A’ for the EU as a whole.
What’s in for older people?
We are very happy to see that the main points we raised in our response to the consultation last year are taken on board. The proposed Pillar follows the outline of the draft presented for comments in March 2016 on which AGE sent comments. Compared to this first draft, the final proposal shows several improvements which – we feel – are the result of AGE members’ collective work and the joint work AGE has conducted together with other social NGOS of the Social Platform to influence the Pillar of Social Rights.
Most of the 20 principles included in the proposal are relevant for older people and reflect the impact of AGE’s advocacy work over the last years, in particular:
- The right to equal opportunities for women and men, and regardless of age and disability is affirmed and includes access to employment, social protection, education and goods and services available to the public.
- The ‘right to active labour market policies’ has been reframed as a right to ‘active support in employment’ and no longer refers to conditionality of unemployment benefits.
- The right to work-life balance takes the most concrete forms and comes with a legislative proposal featuring five days per year of paid (sick) leave to care for dependent relatives, as well as investment incentives and the development of indicators for quality and accessibility of long-term care.
- The right to long-term care states that everyone has the right to affordable long-term care services of good quality, in particular home-care and community-based services. Supporting AGE’s recommendation, this principle now recognises formally the right to long-term care for the first time at EU level.
- The right to old-age income no longer refers to the link between pension age and life expectancy but rather to the aims of ‘living in dignity’ and ‘equal opportunities of women and men to acquire pension rights’.
- The right to minimum income refers to the right to benefits ‘at all stages of life’ (supporting AGE’s recommendation to extend it beyond the working-age population) and includes ‘effective access to enabling goods and services’ (supporting AGE’s call to take account of non-monetary aspects when defining income adequacy necessary to live and age in dignity).
- The right to health care refers both to preventive and curative health as well as affordability and quality.
- Inclusion of persons with disabilities has the aim to make them ‘participate in society’, not only in the labour market.
- The right to access essential services of good quality, including water, sanitation, energy, transport, financial services and digital communications, and to get support for access to such services for those in need.
For more information on what the Commission implies with each right, please look at the Staff Working Document accompanying the Communication on the European Pillar of Social Rights.
What will AGE do on European Pillar of Social Rights?
With the support of its Task Forces AGE will analyse more in depth the proposed individual rights. We will also seek to help develop an indicator to measure progress on the right to long-term care suing our European Charter of the rights and responsibilities of older people in need of care and assistance and the WeDO European quality framework for long-term care. We will collect input from our members and will feed their concerns and recommendations through our annual monitoring of the European semester process.
- Link to the Proposal for an Interinstitutional Proclamation on the European Pillar of Social Rights; (link in French)
- Link to the Communication: Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights, with information about the initiative (link in French)
- Link to the Staff Working Document accompanying the Communication with in-depth information on each right in the recommendation SWD(2017) 201 final
- AGE position on the draft outline for a European Pillar of Social Rights, adopted at AGE General Assembly in November 2016