Annual review of working conditions 2008–2009
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3 – Flexicurity and corporate social responsibility
European Employment Strategy
In its opinion on flexicurity (100Kb PDF) in March 2008, CEEP gave strong support to the European Commission’s Communication Towards common principles of flexicurity: More and better jobs through flexibility and security (COM(2007) 359 final (84Kb PDF)). CEEP pointed out that the implementation of flexicurity strategies should be discussed between governments and social partners as part of the drafting of National Reform Programmes in the wider context of the Lisbon Strategy.
On 13 February 2008, the EESC opinion (97Kb MS Word doc) on the proposal for a Council decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States welcomed the new integrated approach and multiannual cycle and involvement of all relevant social partners in every phase of the process. The EESC reiterates the need for more ambitious, effective and measurable targets, timescales, cost and budget provision, and a stronger emphasis on the inclusion of people with special needs, with specific targets and greater recognition of social policy requirements. On 22 April 2008, the EESC opinion (140Kb MS Word doc) on the European Commission’s flexicurity communication highlighted that flexicurity cannot be viewed separately from the challenges facing the EU; it argued that new risks should be taken into account and that transitions should be rewarded.
The Commission considers it essential to integrate the common principles of flexicurity into a national framework; this was highlighted during a seminar on the development of national flexicurity policies in response to labour market challenges, hosted in Brussels in September 2008. On 8 February 2008, the Commission and the European social partners set up a ‘Mission for flexicurity’ in order to ensure the full integration of the common principles in Community processes and to promote the practical implementation of the principles in the different national contexts, involving Member States, stakeholders and social partners. These objectives are to be achieved within a mutual learning exercise according to a twofold mandate:
- to assist Member States in promoting the common principles of flexicurity at national and sub-national level, in cooperation with all relevant stakeholders;
- to consider ways to facilitate the integration of flexicurity in the processes and tools of the 2008–2010 cycle of the Lisbon Strategy and European Employment Strategy, and particularly in the implementation of the integrated guidelines for growth and jobs (press release, 19 May 2008).
On 19 May 2008, the European Commission launched its mission for flexicurity, reaching out to promote a flexicurity approach at national level.
The Report of the mission for flexicurity (200Kb PDF), presented in Brussels at the Council of 12 December 2008, summarises flexicurity policies at national level in five Member States: Finland, France, Poland, Spain and Sweden. It emphasises the need to adopt flexicurity as a response strategy to the economic crisis in the short term and to ensure a long-term adaptation to transformations in the labour market, such as globalisation, rapid technological progress and the ageing of the population. The mission also considered the Commission’s expert report and the opinion of the European Public Employment Services on flexicurity. It highlighted three general lessons on the implementation of flexicurity:
- the potential contribution of flexicurity in promoting growth and employment in more difficult economic conditions and the major role played by ALMP in facilitating occupational transitions to prevent a rise in unemployment;
- the determining role of the social partners in creating a consensus on establishing flexicurity measures at national level;
- the need to strengthen the effectiveness of a flexicurity strategy through closer analysis of the development of skill requirements in the labour market with in-depth dialogue between the economic players, the social partners and other public sector and private sector actors. As underlined by the ‘New skills for new jobs’ initiative launched by the Commission, this type of exercise should help to reduce imbalances between skill supply and demand.
Corporate social responsibility
On 4 March 2008, the European Alliance for CSR published its progress review 2007 (1.2Mb PDF), summarising its activities in raising awareness and exchanging good practice on CSR between companies and their stakeholders, such as policymakers, consumers, investors, trade unions, NGOs and investors. It shows an increase in the number of solutions related to mainstreaming CSR and equal opportunities, including a compendium of good practices in SMEs (1.3Mb PDF). A total of 20 laboratories were launched in 2007 aiming to develop guidelines, toolkits and training modules, as well as to exchange good practices and draw practical recommendations in relevant subject areas. These included the recruitment and ethical management of foreign workers – addressing the issue of workers’ immigration according to a multi-stakeholder approach – skills for employability and skills for employability enhanced through community engagement in order to foster opportunities for people ‘at risk’, with a special focus on IT skills. Further topics included demographic change, mainstreaming diversity in the company, equality between men and women and employment of people with disabilities. The laboratory well-being in the workplace aims to mainstream and coordinate policy initiatives, also relying on the European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being. Furthermore, the Alliance promoted multidisciplinary research and education on CSR, meetings with business leaders and European commissioners, and stakeholder engagement in CSR policies.
The report Interaction between local employment development and CSR (1.8Mb PDF), carried out on behalf of the European Commission and published in January 2009, observes that European companies are well aware of their social responsibility. It finds differences between large enterprises, which often strategically plan and implement CSR, and smaller businesses. The main initiatives address a wide spectrum of target groups, promoting labour market integration – with a focus on diversity management and equal opportunities – as well as the revitalisation of local areas.
Published on 21 July 2008, a Study on the incorporation of social considerations in public procurement in the EU (349Kb PDF), carried out on behalf of the European Commission, aims to help the Commission to compile a publication in the future to enable public authorities to develop a socially responsible purchasing policy (SRPP). Public authorities are the major consumers in the EU and the study envisages an organisational strategy to ‘buy social’, developing the social and human rights dimension of the EU. SRPP refers to procurement operations that:
- take into consideration the promotion of employment opportunities;
- incorporate safeguards with respect to the standards of working conditions, including decent work;
- strive to support social inclusion, including persons with disabilities, the social economy and SMEs;
- promote equal opportunities and ‘accessibility and design for all’;
- take into account fair and ethical trade issues, as well as human and labour rights;
- seek to achieve wider voluntary adherence to CSR while observing the principles of the EU treaty and EU public procurement directives.
Official trends and statistics
The proportion of non-permanent employees, that is, with temporary employment contracts, in the EU in 2007 was 14.4% of total employment, the same as in 2006 and maintaining a two percentage point increase on 2002 (Figure 12). However, while the share slightly declined among men (from 13.9% to 13.8%), it further increased among women, reaching a proportion of 15.2% of all female employees.
Figure 12: Employees with temporary contracts, by gender, EU27, 2002–2007 (% of total employment)
Source: Eurostat, 2009
Employees with temporary contracts, by gender, EU27, 2002–2007 (% of total employment)
The proportion of temporary employment contracts increased across all age groups over the period 2002–2007 (Figure 13). It is higher among young workers aged 15–24 years (41.1%), who also show the greatest increase ( 5.3 percentage points), and declines in the following age groups. It increased least in the 50–64 years age group during the five-year period ( 0.8 percentage points).
Figure 13: Employees with temporary contracts, by age, EU27, 2002–2007 (% of total employment)
Source: Eurostat, 2009
Employees with temporary contracts, by age, EU27, 2002–2007 (% of total employment)
The proportion of employees working part time in 2007 was 17.6% of all employees, with minimal variation on 2006 both at aggregate level and according to gender (Figure 14).
Figure 14: Employees working part time, by gender, 2002–2007 (%)
Source: Eurostat, 2009
Employees working part time, by gender, 2002–2007 (% of total employment)
Published on 10 June 2008, the Eurofound report Employment security and employability: A contribution to the flexicurity debate proposes a set of four new indicators: objective job insecurity, subjective job insecurity, employability and vulnerability. It also measures how these indicators are linked to each other at individual level, as well as how they are linked to institutional factors at national level; it finds a notable variability across countries in terms of legal, institutional and political frameworks, as well as the role of trust. It calls on Member States to address different problems associated with these factors.
In July 2008, the European Trade Union Institute for Research, Education and Health and Safety (ETUI-REHS) working paper Between innovation and ambiguity – the role of flexicurity in labour market analysis and policy making (589Kb PDF) acknowledges that flexicurity has contributed a number of innovative elements to the debate, in particular by promoting a more holistic approach. However, flexicurity appears ill-defined and highly ambiguous concerning its role in informing policy and is vulnerable to the risk of turning into a ‘catch-all’ concept.
Published on 8 October 2008, the Eurofound report Flexibility and security over the life course: Key findings and policy messages outlines the lack of a coherent life-course approach to social security across Member States in facing new risks and new tendencies of exclusion. When the state only concentrates on organising a scheme that allows people to save time and money for all kinds of needs during their individual life course without any differentiation concerning their reasons, the possibility of a further individualisation of risk coverage arises, thus leaving people with less capabilities to deal with them largely or partly uncovered. Furthermore, companies are becoming increasingly important as actors on the work–life balance stage in offering flexible time options to meet changing needs over the life course; such arrangements can be encouraged by the state. However, the working culture within the company appears to be more important than specific company-level provisions in developing such policies.
Common European area of knowledge
As requested by the European Council Resolution (59Kb PDF) of 15 November 2007, the Communication New skills for new jobs (COM(2008) 868 final (770Kb PDF)) presents a first assessment of the EU’s future skills and jobs requirements up to 2020. On 16 December 2008, the European Commission published its proposal for better matching and anticipating labour market needs, accompanied by a staff working document (446Kb PDF), outlining more effective ways to analyse and predict which skills will be needed in tomorrow’s labour market. In order to put Europe on the road to recovery after the severity of the economic crisis, it is essential to enhance human capital and employability by upgrading skills and ensuring a better match between the supply of skills and labour market demand (press release, 16 December 2008). Four strands are devised:
- to improve the monitoring of short-term trends in the European labour market, develop several tools and services to promote job guidance and mobility, and address skills mismatches;
- to develop better information on skills needs in the EU in the medium and long term, with regularly updated projections of future labour market trends and a sectoral analysis of skills needs;
- to improve understanding of global challenges related to skills and jobs through cooperation with third countries – notably the US, China, Canada and India – and international organisations, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the ILO;
- to help Member States, regions and others involved in skill upgrading and matching, by mobilising existing Community policies and funds in line with these objectives.
BusinessEurope supports the initiative as it emphasises the need to upgrade skills and to better match skills and labour market needs. UEAPME welcomes the new initiative overall in its position paper (41Kb PDF). However, it had some questions about the limits and clear added value of a European instrument in this field, pointing out that training systems should respond to changing economic needs as quickly as possible. These needs differ according to the sector, and at national or even regional level; thus, a European instrument faces certain intrinsic limitations. In its opinion (89Kb PDF), CEEP supports the different initiatives launched by the Commission in this regard, from information exchange on the short-term evolution of skills and employment, to the reinforcement of anticipation tools for the medium and long term, as well as international cooperation.
- equal access to training for all those who must develop their skills and aptitudes;
- recognition and validation of aptitudes and skills irrespective of how they were acquired and their recognition in the company;
- the financing of training and employers’ responsibility in this area;
- the anticipation of future skills needs;
- the participation of the social partners in vocational training and lifelong learning.
To support the European Commission, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Centre Européen pour le Développement de la Formation Professionnelle, Cedefop) reviewed its earlier medium-term forecast of occupational skills needs for 2006–2015. Skill needs in Europe: Focus on 2020 (412Kb PDF), published in February 2008, predicts that, by 2020, almost three quarters of jobs in the EU25 will be in services. Many jobs will be created in high-skilled occupations, but also in elementary occupations. More jobs will require high and medium educational levels from the working population. Transversal and generic skills will be increasingly valued in the labour market, such as problem-solving and analytical skills, self-management and communication skills, the ability to work in a team, linguistic skills and digital competences.
The 9 June EPSCO conclusions (151Kb PDF) emphasised the need to give special attention to youth employment and to the different transitions in the labour market, in particular those between education and training and the labour market.
On 23 January 2008, the European Commission and the European Information and Communication Technologies and Consumer Electronics Association (EICTA, now known as DigitalEurope) organised the first European e-skills event – a conference entitled ‘Moving forward and implementing a long-term e-skills agenda in Europe’ (56Kb PDF). This followed the 2007 Commission Communication E-skills for the 21st century: Fostering competitiveness, growth and jobs (COM(2007) 496 final (161Kb PDF)), which set a long-term e-skills agenda and a set of action lines at EU level. The aim of the conference was to facilitate the definition of long-term e-skills strategies in the Member States, to determine flagship projects and to exchange best practice.
On 9–10 October 2008, in Thessaloniki, Greece, the European Commission and Cedefop, in partnership with the e-Skills Industry Leadership Board, organised the European e-Skills 2008 Conference: Implementing a long-term e-skills strategy in Europe, bringing together experts from governments, the ICT industry, the social partners, academia and other stakeholders to discuss best practices and flagship projects and to report on progress. The conference was an important step towards the implementation of a long-term e-skills strategy that is resilient to change and turbulence in the global economy and that meets the needs of the EU population.
The October conference acknowledged the important steps taken at European level to encourage the rapid dissemination of good practices. The conclusions, Good progress on the implementation of the EU e-skills strategy (48Kb PDF), reported that employers can now specify their staffing requirements more easily because of the availability of a European e-Competence Framework, developed in the context of the CEN workshop on ICT skills organised by the European Committee for Standardisation (Comité européen de normalisation, CEN). Furthermore, jobseekers and their advisers are being helped by the launch of a European e-Skills and Careers portal, and the success of multi-stakeholder partnerships seems set to extend to organisations of all sizes, including SMEs.
On 19 May 2008, the European Commission launched the first European e-Inclusion Awards, which aim to celebrate the best and most imaginative uses of information and communication technology (ICT) to reduce digital and social exclusion. In addition, a campaign ‘e-Inclusion: Be part of it!’ aims to enable people to fully participate in the information society, regardless of individual or social disadvantages.
On 1 December 2008, the Commission Communication Towards an accessible information society (COM(2008) 804 final (62Kb PDF)) was accompanied by a staff working document on e-accessibility (SEC(2008) 2916 (1.3Mb PDF)) and a report from the online public consultation (SEC(2008) 2915 (208Kb PDF)). The communication makes suggestions for improving web accessibility in particular and e-accessibility in general, notably to:
- pursue and make full use of instruments at European level in favour of people with disabilities and for elderly persons, as well as the possibilities of current and proposed legislation;
- reinforce cooperation with Member States and other stakeholders towards a common European approach for e-accessibility, including through a new EU high-level e-accessibility expert group to provide strategic guidance.
Official statistics and trends
The participation rate in lifelong learning activities was 9.6% in 2007, still below the Lisbon target of 12.5% (Figure 15). Denmark (30.2%) and Finland (23.1%) show the highest participation rates, while Bulgaria (1.4%), Romania (1.5%) and Greece (2.9%) report the lowest rates in this regard. Women participate in lifelong learning more than men both at EU level (10.4% and 8.7% respectively) and in most countries, with the exception of Germany (8% in the case of men compared with 7.8% for women); Bulgaria and Greece show minimal gaps in favour of women’s participation.
Figure 15: Participation in lifelong learning, by country and gender, 2008 (%)
Notes: No data for SE. Data for CZ, EE, IE and PT provisional.
Source: Eurostat, 2009
Participation in lifelong learning, by country and gender, 2008 (%)
During the 2000s, the participation rate in lifelong learning significantly increased between 2002 and 2005, reaching a proportion of 9.8%; since then it fluctuates just below the 2005 rate (Figure 16). Women consistently participate in lifelong learning more than men do over the whole period, without a significant change in the gender gap.
Figure 16: Participation in lifelong learning, EU27, 2000–2008 (%)
Notes: Data for 2000 and 2001 are estimates. In 2003, there was a break in the series. Data for 2008 are provisional.
Source: Eurostat, 2009
Participation in lifelong learning, EU27, 2000–2008 (%)
Published on 7 November 2008, the Eurofound report Who needs up-skilling? Low-skilled and low-qualified workers in the European Union highlights that low-skilled workers are often less qualified, are concentrated in low-income categories and face a high risk of losing their job. Furthermore, according to the fourth EWCS, they report more physically demanding work and fewer cognitive demands, with poor autonomy at work. Training is a crucial aspect in the labour market situation of low-skilled workers: when they are equipped with adequate training and up-skilling programmes, they show greater internal flexibility, thus offering the untapped potential to address skills gaps and labour shortages in particular economic sectors. This can be achieved by allowing the workers to recognise their skills developed in non-formal settings. The challenge lies in encouraging low-skilled workers to participate in training and to appreciate the longer-term benefits that it brings, which necessitates the greater involvement of all stakeholders.
Following the 2007 European Commission Communication Stepping up the fight against undeclared work (COM(2007) 628 final), on 9 October 2008 a European Parliament resolution considered that action to combat undeclared work should be incorporated into the economic and employment policies of the Lisbon Strategy. More precise studies are needed to analyse the decisive macroeconomic factors involved and the relationship between markets, production models and widespread undeclared work. Further research should investigate its observed link with health and safety at work, with the aim of promoting risk prevention and a culture of health and safety in the workplace.
The European Parliament calls on the Commission to propose a set of generally accepted methods of measuring undeclared work based on data according to gender and economic sector. Action in this area requires a proactive comprehensive approach by involving all stakeholders in order to ensure improved job quality in accordance with the decent work objective. Such an approach also includes the safeguarding and promotion of the rights of migrant workers – whether legal or illegal – as well as tax and social security system reforms aiming to reduce the burden of taxation on the workforce. The European Parliament asks Member States to consider improving incentives for regular work.
Furthermore, the European Parliament calls on the Member States, social partners and other key actors in the labour market to encourage CSR and other approaches in order to combat undeclared employment. In addition, contractors should be held co-responsible for any contributory irregularities on the part of subcontractors to which they are linked with a direct subcontracting agreement.
Official trends and statistics
According to the Eurofound report Tackling undeclared work in the European Union, published on 12 March 2008, EU countries currently remain heavily embedded in a ‘deterrence approach’, based on detection and penalties. However, there has also been a notable increase in the use of more enabling approaches and measures, particularly prevention measures. At the moment, it is difficult to determine what is effective and what is not, as no knowledge bank is available to identify what has been tried and tested elsewhere, to assess the relative effectiveness of different approaches and measures, and to evaluate their transferability across countries, sectors and occupations.
Impact of new technologies
A report on the impact of new technologies, funded by the European Parliament and published on 14 March 2008, analyses the interactions between new technologies and the job market, flexicurity and training. IT has played a central role in work pattern and organisation changes in the last decades. It has helped to foster processes of codification, standardisation and also fragmentation, with a related decrease in transaction costs. Related to this process is the diversification of products and services, implying the multiplication of tasks and skills all over the world, with increasingly complex job profiles. A gap has emerged between the introduction of new technologies, especially IT, and the need for training in a changing working environment. This gap can be bridged by empowering men and women in the different labour markets, as well as through institutional security and the avoidance of social exclusion – as the flexicurity concept does.
Increasing knowledge in production and working processes did not lead to ‘symbolic’ or knowledge-based work becoming more important in production processes than working with physical materials. A greater organisational and geographical disconnection between information and data from substantial and energetic processes has tended to favour outsourcing and relocation.
Further technological changes with some notable effects on labour markets and working structures are expected from synergies between IT, biotechnology and nanotechnology. However, the immediate effects of possible technological innovations on labour markets cannot be identified since the increased importance of the services sector shows dualistic features, with the emergence of both high-skilled and low-skilled jobs.
The Eurofound report Use of technology and working conditions in the European Union, published on 23 December 2008, examines trends in the use of technology in different economic sectors and countries. It investigates the ways in which technology use and work organisation are related to working conditions and to workers’ health and well-being by using data from the fourth EWCS. A total of four different categories of technology used in workplaces are clustered according to the technologies used – machinery, computer, both and neither – showing a machine–computer divide. For each, the impact on health, quality of work and skill needs is mapped. The report makes several recommendations: in particular, the increased use of technology must be accompanied by policy changes promoting the introduction of innovation in bundles, by adapting work organisation according to more flexible patterns.
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