For a more social Europe
The social models in Europe are facing fundamental challenges. On the one hand, the effects of the economic and financial crisis on employment and social cohesion are making a strong impact. On the other hand, Europe is facing major challenges not only in the field of computerisation but also, in view of demographic change, with the integration of refugees and gender equality in the labour market.
The official Sponsors of the European Office for Catholic Youth Work and Adult Education welcome the long overdue attempt to establish a balance between the economic and monetary union and the social and employment policy, and have therefore contributed to the EU consultation. However, in order to reduce the disparities between the EU Member States, other minimum standards in European employment, social and educational policy are required. Given the large number of featured topics, the Catholic sponsors have focused on three: “Skills, education, and lifelong learning”; “Flexible and secure labour contracts” and “gender equality and reconciliation of work and private life”.
Investing in lifelong learning
According to Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, every person has the right to education and to have access to vocational training and continuing education. Therefore the Catholic Office sponsors are calling for the implementation of the European Commission’s proposals for national reform programmes for various Member States. These reforms seek to tackle the excessively low overall spending on education and and call for greater investment in education. The subject of the reforms relate to both non-formal education, i.e. extracurricular education (in which people engage in personal and social education outside formal curricula), as well as in formal education, (i.e. the public education system).
What the Member States have been spending on education up until the present is not sufficient to allow socially disadvantaged and also newly-arrived refugees to get access to the educational system. Digital participation, (i.e. participation opportunities of any kind in the digital age), must also be opened up to all EU citizens. 70 million Europeans are at risk of being left behind, not just in the field of digital literacy. Therefore, further training in all areas is urgently needed.
Promotion of social inclusion in Europe means that a holistic approach to education for lifelong learning must apply in Europe. Such an approach must go beyond a merely labour market-oriented understanding of education. The Catholic Office sponsors therefore request that the Skills Agenda for Europe, newly introduced in 2016, should be developed further. The Agenda is a ten-point list of measures created by the European Commission for improving skills in Europe.
The Agenda includes, for example, vocational training as the first priority across Europe for low-skilled adults to receive a minimum level of literacy, numeracy, and computer skills. Efforts are being made to develop tools that can identify and profile the skills of third country nationals. The Catholic Office sponsors also call for a further development and continuation of the EU Youth Strategy, which has been in existence as the European framework for youth policy cooperation since 2009.
Increase in precarious working conditions
In Article 153 of the EU Treaty, the Union supports the exclusive national competence of the Member States in the following fields: working conditions, social security for workers, and protection of workers at the termination of the employment contract. From the perspective of the Catholic Office sponsors, it is a matter of great concern that precarious working conditions are on the increase throughout Europe. Too often, workers’ employment is extended on a temporary basis following a fixed-term employment.
This hinders one’s own family planning, volunteer work, security, and makes long-term planning difficult. If they are to implement the right to work, the European Office representatives are asking the European Union to develop a more proactive labour market policy. It is important that precarious working conditions should be defined in a similar way throughout Europe, so that minimum standards can then be introduced in the Member States.
The Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC) relating to employment has been implemented in all Member States. Despite this commitment, the 2010-2015 strategy for equality between men and women was discontinued by Member States because of a block by the European Council and there are still major differences in earnings between men and women and also in the reconciliation of work and family. Women are still paid less per hour and are found more often in part-time work, even if they have higher educational qualifications than men.
Reasons for this include a lack of available care facilities for children and other dependent persons, and also working conditions that are not family-friendly. Therefore the Sponsors of the Catholic Europe office are calling on the EU Member States at the very least to find some agreement on the Directive (2012/0299/COD) to ensure a more balanced representation of women and men among the non-executive supervisory directors of listed companies, so that it can enter into force. In addition, the European Commission should, as part of its public campaigns, promote the topic of equality, so that awareness in the public sphere will be strengthened.
European Office for Catholic Youth Work and Adult Education
Sponsors of the European Office: European Federation for Catholic Adult Education (FEECA), Association of Catholic-Social Education Works in the Federal Republic of Germany (AKSB e.V.), Centre for Youth Ministry of the German Bishops’ Conferences (afj), Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ), Jugendhaus Düsseldorf e.V., Catholic Adult Education Germany - a registered association, (KEB Deutschland e.V.)
Translated from the original text in German
The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Office.