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Monday 18 December is International Migrants Day. In the following blog piece Eurofound Director Juan Menéndez-Valdés and Research Manager Klára Fóti look at new developments in migration policy and practice in the EU, and the need to build clear paths to the labour market for Europe’s new migrants.
'Europe – a world-class place to live and work.' That is how President Juncker described Europe at the summit to formally proclaim the EU Pillar of Social Rights in Gothenburg last month. And he added: ‘Europe is more than just a single market, more than money … It is about our values and the way we want to live’. So how do we live? Do the 510 million Europeans across the current 28 Member States really feel that their living conditions are ‘world-class’?
When EU Heads of State or Government gather in Gothenburg this week to debate fair jobs and growth, it will be the first such ‘social summit’ in 20 years. At the heart of the agenda of this high-level gathering will be the formal proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights – 20 principles and rights focused on equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion.
The ability to make ends meet is a vital issue for many Europeans and an important priority for European policymakers. In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis the initial focus was to mitigate and reverse job loss, particularly in the countries most affected. With employment back to pre-crisis levels and unemployment on the decline, attention is turning to income inequality, and in particular pay inequality; an issue with ramifications beyond the labour market, and one which may well prove as intractable as the issue of unemployment in the previous decade.
The results of recent research on working time patterns in the EU constitute a strong plea for working time policies that clearly acknowledge the life course perspective. This means that working time must not only be thought and organised in daily, weekly, monthly and/or yearly terms but also take into full consideration the different stages of our lives.
While the Europe 2020 strategy actively promotes entrepreneurial self-employment as a means to create good jobs, policy makers at national and EU level are actively looking at better social protection for self-employed workers. Understanding this paradox requires looking beyond the ‘self-employed’ label and acknowledging it as an umbrella term covering a widely differing group of workers.
Rising levels of employment in manufacturing in the EU since 2013 have seen the part reversal of a long-term decline in employment in this sector. Data from the European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) database to early September 2017 show that, for the first time since 2005, the number of new manufacturing jobs announced in national media (91,740) outstripped the number of announced job losses (46,478).
In-work poverty increased during the economic and financial crisis that hit European shores in 2008. By 2014, ten per cent of European workers were at risk of poverty, up from eight per cent in 2007. Ten per cent is a significant figure: the working poor represent a substantial group that can’t be ignored. Just as disconcerting is the finding that 13 per cent of European workers are materially deprived. This latter measure helps to capture the impact of the crisis on people’s real living conditions.
The Great Recession had lasting effects on European labour markets, both in terms of employment levels and structure. Not only did employment rates drop significantly – taking years to return to pre-crisis levels, with some countries not fully recovered yet – but the crisis also accelerated structural change and generalised a pattern of job polarisation across Europe. In other words, we witnessed a relative decline in mid-paid jobs compared to those at the top and bottom of the occupational structure.
The EU has finally recovered all the net employment losses sustained since the global financial crisis. It has been a long and painful process. But there is at last growing evidence of positive momentum in EU labour markets, if not quite ‘animal spirits’. Many of those member states most affected by the global downturn have recorded significant employment growth in the last three years – including Spain (+9%), Ireland (+8%) and Greece (+5%).