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.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting sanctions have caused energy prices to soar. Governments seeking to alleviate the negative impacts of price increases on households have introduced energy subsidies and VAT reductions for electricity, gas and fuel. While such policies may be needed to protect those most in need, subsidising energy use is a short-term solution – it is a temporary, partial compensation that does not always reach those who are hardest hit. Added to this, subsidising fossil fuel energy use conflicts with the EU’s aims to limit carbon emissions and maintains its energy dependency on third countries, such as Russia.
We are 100 days on from the invasion by Russia of Ukraine on 24 February, when peace in Europe was shattered. As the human tragedy began to unfold and with more than 6.8 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, escaping their country since the start of the war, European citizens have been watching developments with increasing concern.
Capturing this critical moment, Eurofound carried out a survey in April 2022 asking over 40,000 people living in Europe their views on a range of issues, including the war in Ukraine.
Digitisation and automation technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), can affect working conditions in a variety of ways and their use in the workplace raises a host of new ethical concerns. Recently, the policy debate surrounding these concerns has become more prominent and has increasingly focused on AI. This report maps relevant European and national policy and regulatory initiatives. It explores the positions and views of social partners in the policy debate on the implications of technological change for work and employment.
This publication consists of individual country reports on working life during 2021 for 28 countries – the 27 EU Member States and Norway. The country reports summarise evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working life based on national research and survey results during 2021. They outline the policy responses of governments and social partners in their efforts to cushion the socioeconomic effects and include a focus on policy areas related to adapting to the pandemic and the return to work.
Today is Europe Day, and one hundred young people from Ireland and Ukraine will be marking the event at Eurofound, in peaceful south Dublin. Europe Day has traditionally been seen as a celebration of peace and unity in Europe, but, unfortunately, it must be marked differently this year. Europe Day 2022 must rather reaffirm the values of Europe: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights. These values are now being tested daily and must be rigorously defended for the future of Europe and the future of our young people.
The European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) has reported on the employment impact of large-scale business restructuring since 2002. This publication series include the ERM reports, as well as blogs, articles and working papers on restructuring-related events in the EU27 and Norway.
Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) paints a wide-ranging picture of Europe at work across countries, occupations, sectors and age groups. This series consists of findings from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS) 2021, an extraordinary edition conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was first carried out in 1990.
This publication series gathers all overview reports on developments in working life, annual reviews in industrial relations and working conditions produced by Eurofound on the basis of national contributions from the Network of Eurofound Correspondents (NEC). Since 1997, these reports have provided overviews of the latest developments in industrial relations and working conditions across the EU and Norway. The series may include recent ad hoc articles written by members of the NEC.
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.
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).