While women appear to be more resilient than men to COVID-19 in terms of health outcomes, that is not the case when it comes to the economic and social fallout. Measures taken by governments to control the spread of the virus are exacerbating gender divides in unemployment, domestic labour and financial security, all to the disadvantage of women. Meanwhile, work–life conflict is escalating as people work from home, with mothers of small children often bearing the brunt of the impact.
While we now know that the idea that ‘COVID-19 only affects older people’ is fake news, the first weeks of the pandemic have shown that young people are in general more resilient than older people to the disease. But are they also more resilient to its social and economic impacts?
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.
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.
The European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) launched in 1990 and is carried out every five years, with the latest edition in 2020. 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.
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 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, conducted in two rounds – in April and in July 2020. 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 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.
Eurofound's representativness 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 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.
The European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) is carried out every four to five years since its inception in 2003, with the latest edition in 2016. It examines both the objective circumstances of people's lives and how they feel about those circumstances and their lives in general. It covers issues around employment, income, education, housing, family, health and work–life balance. It also looks at subjective topics, such as people's levels of happiness and life satisfaction, and perceptions of the quality of society.
This report investigates the practical implementation of the European Works Council (EWC) Directive at company level. It explores the challenges faced by existing EWCs and provides examples of identified solutions and remaining issues from the point of view of both workers and management. The report looks at the way that EWCs meet the requirements of the EWC Directive in terms of establishing processes of information and consultation.
This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the electricity sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in the European sectoral social dialogue and their capacity to negotiate agreements. The aim of this Eurofound study on representativeness is to identify the relevant national and European social partner organisations in the electricity sector in the EU Member States.
This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the gas sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in the European sectoral social dialogue and their capacity to negotiate agreements. The aim of this Eurofound’s study on representativeness is to identify the relevant national and European social partner organisations in the gas sector in the EU Member States.
This study provides information allowing for an assessment of the representativeness of the actors involved in the European sectoral social dialogue committee for the food and drinks sector. Their relative representativeness legitimises their right to be consulted, their role and effective participation in the European sectoral social dialogue and their capacity to negotiate agreements. The aim of this Eurofound study on representativeness is to identify the relevant national and European social partner organisations in the food and drinks sector in the EU Member States.
What have been the major trends and policy developments regarding digitalisation in Europe? What do we know about the deployment of automation, digitisation and the platform economy? This flagship publication provides an overview of developments in Europe in recent years, as well as mapping the observable or expected effects on employment and working conditions, as well as exploring the implications from a policy perspective.
This report explores the association between skills use and skills strategies and establishment performance, and how other workplace practices, in terms of work organisation, human resources management and employee involvement, can impact on this. It looks at how skills shortages can be addressed, at least in part, by creating an environment in which employees are facilitated and motivated to make better use of the skills they already have. This further supports the business case for a more holistic approach to management.
The COVID-19 pandemic radically reshaped workplace practices and work organisation across the EU. This report explores changes that occurred as a result of or during the COVID-19 pandemic in areas such as technological transformation, decision-making and remote working. The research sets out to learn from company experiences and measures that have proved critical to keeping businesses running. It aims to inform policymakers, employers and trade unions on how to make businesses, workplaces and workers more resilient in the face of a crisis such as COVID-19.
Social dialogue lies at the heart of the EU treaties and governance. Social partners are core stakeholders who can assess policy needs and contribute to policy formation and to designing and implementing national reforms in the social and employment fields. This report focuses on the timely and meaningful involvement of national social partners in the preparation of the new resilience and recovery plans and the national reform programmes (NRPs) that were temporarily integrated under the European Semester in 2021.
This report captures the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the quality of life of older citizens, including the impact on their well-being, finances, employment and social inclusion. It explores the effects on care use and reliance on other support. The report analyses policy measures that have been implemented in EU Member States that have proven particularly important for the quality of life of older citizens, for example, measures to support independent living.
This report offers a backward look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work and life of Europeans. The main focus is on Eurofound’s e-survey ‘ Living, working and COVID-19’ which was launched on 9 April 2020 just after the onset of the crisis. Through four rounds of the survey (two in 2020 and two in 2021), the range of questions changed to match the evolving situation and to understand the effects on the everyday lives of citizens and workers.