Quality of work
Quality of work refers to the European Union’s objective to promote ‘improved living and working conditions’ as laid down in Article 151 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The term covers such aspects as security, decent remuneration and working conditions, training and investment in skills.
While the commitment to improving working conditions was already a part of the Treaties of Rome, it was further stipulated in the 2007 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The commitment was renewed by the Lisbon Strategy aimed at combining ‘sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’. It incorporates policy concerns over employment, competitiveness and adaptability, particularly in debates over balancing flexibility with security, the so-called ‘flexicurity’ concept. The European Commission’s renewed Social Policy Agenda 2006–2010 (COM(2008) 412 final (92 Kb PDF), 2 July 2008) emphasises the joint goals of ‘more and better jobs’ since ‘the aim is not only to have more jobs but also to develop quality jobs, in particular those linked to the knowledge-based economy’. More generally, ‘quality of work’ means ‘better jobs and more balanced ways of combining working life with personal life’.
In addition to this global strategy, the main aspects of quality of work are addressed in the following programmes:
- the Community strategy 2007–2012 on health and safety at work (COM(2007) 62 final) identifies a number of challenges in the field of health and safety, such as demographic change and the ageing of the working population, new forms of atypical work and increased employment in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), increased migration in Europe and risks due to gender segregation in the workplace;
- the European Commission’s Roadmap for equality between women and men (2006–2010) addresses the lack of gender equality in the labour market and in the workplace, identifying six priority areas for EU gender actions: equal economic independence for women and men; reconciliation of private and professional life; equal representation in decision making; eradication of all gender-based violence and trafficking; elimination of gender stereotypes; promotion of gender equality outside the EU.
The concept of quality of work is also related in the Social Policy Agenda to the promotion of ‘quality of social policy’ (a high level of social protection, good social services available to all people in Europe, real opportunities for all, and the guarantee of fundamental and social rights) and ‘quality in industrial relations’ (the capacity to build consensus, including on the subject of restructuring).
Improving quality of work is also an important objective of European social dialogue. A number of European framework agreements and frameworks of action address issues regarding the quality of work. These include:
- the agreement on telework (2002);
- the framework of action on lifelong learning (2002);
- the agreement on stress at work (2004);
- the framework of action on gender equality (2005);
- the agreement on harassment and violence at work (2006).
The EU agency European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) was established in 1975 with the aim of contributing to ‘the planning and design of better living and working conditions in Europe’. Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Surveys (EWCS) and European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO) provide comprehensive information on all aspects of quality of work in Europe.