The impact of COVID-19 continues to create chaos in people’s lives across Europe and the world. The economy is heading towards another major dip, and a sense of general insecurity pervades. The daunting challenges confronting health services and projections on the long-term impact of the crisis dominate the discourse in the media – and with good reason. But what do we actually know about how the pandemic is affecting us all? How are Europe’s citizens really experiencing this crisis, beyond the graphic drama of individual disease, death and macroeconomic concerns?
A debate has started in Italy about the support that the state should provide to undeclared workers operating in the informal economy during the COVID-19 crisis. Nunzia Catalfo, Italy’s Minister of Labour in April stated that ‘undeclared work should not exist’ but went on to acknowledge ‘it is a plague that exists’ and that the state has an obligation to provide for all those who have been left without an income in the current emergency. However, this is not an easy step for governments to take, and much is at stake in bringing undeclared workers into the social security fold.
In the space of just a few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has radically transformed the lives of people around the globe. Apart from the devastating health consequences on people directly affected by the virus, the COVID-19 pandemic has had major implications for the way people live and work, affecting their physical and mental well-being in a profound way. To capture the immediate economic and social effects of this crisis, Eurofound launched a large-scale online survey across the European Union and beyond on 9 April.
On 2 April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a new fund of up to €100 billion to support EU Member States to introduce short-time working or similar schemes, including for the self-employed, in an effort to safeguard jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Known as SURE (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency), the initiative will finance loans on favourable terms to EU countries facing a ‘sudden and severe’ rise in spending on such schemes and is designed to show EU solidarity with hard hit Member States and workers.
Social partners’ reactions to the Commission's proposals for a strong social Europe, including a minimum fair wage initiative, are the main topics of interest in this article. This EU update reports on the latest developments in working life in the EU in the first quarter of 2020. Topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic are presented in a separate article.
‘Digital transformation’ has been a buzzword in policy circles for some time now, and commitments to making it work for citizens, business and society as whole abound. Brussels has been no exception – the European Commission presented its data and artificial intelligence (AI) strategies in February of this year. But a closer look at what has been set out so far reveals a missing link between digital transformation and social policy.
In early March 2020, working life in EU Member States came under enormous pressure due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 disease and the precautionary measures taken by governments in subsequent weeks. This article gives a brief overview of the first reactions of European institutions and some of the responses by EU social partners to those challenges in the first quarter of 2020.
Up to the start of 2020, recent EU economic and labour market trends were often discussed in terms of the periods before and after the Great Recession. It now appears likely that, in the short- to medium-term, the repercussions of that economic crisis will be dwarfed by the unfolding impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on businesses and employment in the sectors most affected by the shutdown – not to speak of the cost in human lives.
What have been the major trends and policy developments regarding the flexibilisation of employment in recent years? Eurofound’s work programme for 2017–2020 set out to document and capture these changes in the world of work. This flagship publication provides an overview of developments in Europe in the wake of the global financial crisis, as well as mapping the ongoing challenges and policy approaches taken at EU and national levels to find the right balance between flexibility and security in the labour market.
Fear has been mounting in the debate around new technologies and the implications for the future of work. But the Coronavirus outbreak is unveiling some real positives of technological advances. Digital communication tools are supporting and enhancing working from home, while innovative companies are leveraging more nascent technologies – such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and 3D printing – to deal with the frontline challenges of the crisis.
Eurofound’s work on COVID-19 examines the far-reaching socioeconomic implications of the pandemic across Europe as they continue to impact living and working conditions. A key element of the research is the e-survey, launched in April 2020, with five rounds completed at different stages during 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is complemented by the inclusion of research into the ongoing effects of the pandemic in much of Eurofound’s other areas of work.
Eurofound's representativeness studies are designed to allow the European Commission to identify the ‘management and labour’ whom it must consult under article 154 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This series consists of studies of the representativeness of employer and worker organisations in various sectors.
This series reports on developments in minimum wage rates across the EU, including how they are set and how they have developed over time in nominal and real terms. The series explores where there are statutory minimum wages or collectively agreed minimum wages in the Member States, as well as minimum wage coverage rates by gender.
The European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) launched in 1990 and is carried out every five years, with the latest edition in 2015. It provides an overview of trends in working conditions and quality of employment for the last 30 years. It covers issues such as employment status, working time duration and organisation, work organisation, learning and training, physical and psychosocial risk factors, health and safety, work–life balance, worker participation, earnings and financial security, work and health, and most recently also the future of work.
The European Restructuring Monitor has reported on the employment impact of large-scale business restructuring since 2002. This series includes its restructuring-related databases (events, support instruments and legislation) as well as case studies and publications.
Eurofound’s Flagship report series 'Challenges and prospects in the EU' comprise research reports that contain the key results of multiannual research activities and incorporate findings from different related research projects. Flagship reports are the major output of each of Eurofound’s strategic areas of intervention and have as their objective to contribute to current policy debates.
Eurofound’s European Company Survey (ECS) maps and analyses company policies and practices which can have an impact on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, as well as the development of social dialogue in companies. This series consists of outputs from the ECS 2019, the fourth edition of the survey. The survey was first carried out in 2004–2005 as the European Survey on Working Time and Work-Life Balance.
This series reports on and updates latest information on the involvement of national social partners in policymaking. The series analyses the involvement of national social partners in the implementation of policy reforms within the framework of social dialogue practices, including their involvement in elaborating the National Reform Programmes (NRPs).
This series reports on the new forms of employment emerging across Europe that are driven by societal, economic and technological developments and are different from traditional standard or non-standard employment in a number of ways. This series explores what characterises these new employment forms and what implications they have for working conditions and the labour market.
The European Company Survey (ECS) is carried out every four to five years since its inception in 2004–2005, with the latest edition in 2019. The survey is designed to provide information on workplace practices to develop and evaluate socioeconomic policy in the EU. It covers issues around work organisation, working time arrangements and work–life balance, flexibility, workplace innovation, employee involvement, human resource management, social dialogue, and most recently also skills use, skills strategies and digitalisation.
Adequate, affordable housing has become a matter of great concern, with an alarming number of Europeans with low or lower household incomes unable to access any, especially in capital cities. Housing was a key factor in people’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic: its quality and level of safety significantly affected how lockdowns and social distancing measures were experienced, with those who had no access to quality housing at higher risk of deteriorating living conditions and well-being.
The use of artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and the Internet of Things technologies in the workplace can bring about fundamental changes in work organisation and working conditions. This report analyses the ethical and human implications of the use of these technologies at work by drawing on qualitative interviews with policy stakeholders, input from the Network of Eurofound Correspondents and Delphi expert surveys, and case studies.