Telework has become a permanent feature of working life in Europe. While we’ve seen the benefits of more flexible ways of working – particularly during the pandemic – the problems that arise from an increasingly connected life are also becoming clearer. Unfortunately, legislation alone may not be enough to ensure our right to disconnect.
The fifth round of Eurofound's e-survey, fielded from 25 March to 2 May 2022, sheds light on the social and economic situation of people across Europe two years after COVID-19 was first detected on the European continent. It also explores the reality of living in a new era of uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine, inflation, and rising energy prices.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the mass immigration of refugees into the EU – over 5 million to date, according to the UNHCR – has put European societies under pressure. EU and national-level policymakers together with civil society reacted quickly to accommodate the waves of fleeing Ukrainians. The Temporary Protection Directive grants displaced Ukrainians temporary refugee status, which gives them various rights, including the right to residence, social protection, access to work, education and healthcare.
This report describes Eurofound's activities, particularly its research, information and communication programmes and policy achievements, in relation to the objectives set in the Work Programme 2021. It also covers the management and external evaluation control systems, key performance indicators, and financial and HR information. Eurofound’s key research findings and how they are embedded in the current policy context are also presented in Living and working in Europe 2021, Eurofound’s yearbook - see Related content.
The answer is yes – potentially. Assessing the environmental benefits of telework is a complex task, because any move to work from home involves a series of changes in individuals’ daily lives and activities, as well as company-level decisions, that may positively or negatively influence the level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated. This means that the overall climate impact of teleworking is determined by the interplay of a variety of factors. These are crucial to consider for a robust assessment of whether this type of flexible working arrangement can be a green choice.
Throughout 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific occupational health and safety rules were reintroduced due to increases in infection rates. Mandatory face masks, physical distancing and hygiene measures were enforced, and the recommendation to telework was largely re-instated in phases of high epidemiological risk. In many countries, employers were obliged to perform a COVID-19 risk assessment and implement measures accordingly.
Two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, social dialogue continues to make a significant contribution to helping economies recover. Managing the crisis led many governments to rely on tripartite social dialogue to develop the policies that would mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy and the labour market. This was borne out by the intensification of activities by national social dialogue institutions and by the agreements signed in many countries. In 2021, tripartite social dialogue shifted its focus from crisis mitigation measures to recovery and issues such as minimum wages and the green transition.
In the second pandemic year 2021, access to one’s place of work was increasingly dependent on providing proof of either having been tested, vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in several countries. Specific professional groups – such as essential workers and workers in critical infrastructure – were prioritised in vaccination programmes. A general vaccination mandate was introduced only in one country – Austria – where, however, the legislation was suspended shortly after its launch. In several countries, vaccination was made mandatory for specific employee groups, and this policy, if contested, was by and large endorsed by court rulings. Social partners have generally encouraged employees to get vaccinated, with unions mostly opposed to both the obligation on workers to disclose their vaccination status and mandatory vaccinations.
Minimum wages have risen significantly in 2022, as the EU Member States leave behind the cautious mood of the pandemic. However, rising inflation is eating up these wage increases, and only flexibility in the regular minimum wage setting processes may avoid generalised losses in purchasing power among minimum wage earners. On 6 June 2022, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament reached a political agreement on the Directive on adequate minimum wages proposed by the Commission in October 2020. Once formally approved, EU Member States will have to transpose it into national law within two years.
After a cautious round of minimum wage setting for 2021, nominal rates rose significantly for 2022 as the negative consequences of the pandemic eased and economies and labour markets improved. In this context, 20 of the 21 EU Member States with statutory minimum wages raised their rates. Substantial growth was apparent in the central and eastern European Member States compared with the pre-enlargement Member States, while the largest increase occurred in Germany. When inflation is taken into account, however, the minimum wage increased in real terms in only six Member States.
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.