EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

The Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion is the department of the European Commission responsible for employment and industrial relations. DG-EMPL focuses on the following areas:

  • More and better jobs through the European Employment Strategy (which brings national policies closer in this field) and the European Social Fund (€9 billion per year managed in partnership with the Member States);
  • Free movement of workers and coordination of social security schemes, which means that every EU national has the right to work and to live in any EU country and that people who move between countries are not disadvantaged in relation to social security including healthcare;
  • Better working conditions through common minimum standards in the workplace, by supporting and developing social dialogue at European level, by modernising labour relations, and by assisting EU workers who want to be mobile. Social inclusion by supporting efforts to combat poverty and social exclusion, reform social protection systems, assess new demographic and social developments;
  • The European Commission's priorities are set out in the Annual Management Plan of the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

DG-EMPL has the objective of promoting European integration in accordance with the EU Treaty and, specifically of contributing ‘to the development of a modern, innovative and sustainable European social model with more and better jobs in an inclusive society based on equal opportunities’ in accordance to its mission statement. For example, the Community’s original focus on a common market in labour led to a detailed legislative programme to secure free movement of workers between Member States. The original Treaty provision (Article 119 EC, now Article 157 TFEU) on equal pay encouraged Community legislation on equal treatment and many initiatives in the area of equality between women and men. More recently, the approval of EU Directives prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of race and ethnic origin reflects the insertion into the EC Treaty of Article 13 by the Treaty of Amsterdam (now article 19 TFEU), which states that the Union ‘may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation’.

However, DG-EMPL’s capacity to act in certain areas of employment and social policy, for example, the area of social security, is constrained by Member States’ concern to retain national autonomy in that sphere. Europeanisation of social and employment policies may also come into conflict with internal market and competition policies. Different Directorates-General may dispute the relative importance of promoting labour cost competition as against maintaining labour standards; an example is whether labour standards may be adopted as criteria for the award of contracts in public procurement.

Thus, progress towards Europeanisation of employment and industrial relations depends greatly, though by no means exclusively, on how DG-EMPL defines its mission, which areas of its activity are given priority, and the success with which it fulfils its tasks.

DG-EMPL consists of eight Directorates : A – Analysis, Evaluation, External Relations; B – Employment and Social Legislation, Social Dialogue; C – Europe 2020: Employment policies; D – Europe 2020: Social Policies; E – Social Market Economy in Member States I : ESF; F – Social Market Economy in Member States II : ESF; G – Resources, Communication and H– Audit, Control. Directorate B is responsible for following the European social dialogue both at intersectoral and sectoral level. Directorate B is subdivided into the following units: B/1: Social Dialogue, Industrial Relations; B/2: Labour Law; B/3: Health, Safety and Hygiene at Work and F/4: Free Movement of Workers Coordination of Social Security Schemes.

See also: European Commission, European social dialogue; gender equality; gender mainstreaming; Senior Labour Inspectors’ Committee.

Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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