Future of work and ageing: what is the ESF doing?

ESF_logo-bannerThe European Social Fund (ESF)’s Transnational networks held a common conference on the future of work in Brussels on 11 December 2018. The conference discussed the major transformations of the labour market and how to make those developments more inclusive.

New forms of work require re-thinking social protection systems

The conference was kicked-off by Stijn Broecke from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), presenting the organisations’ research into the future of work. While employment rates have been raised in the last couple of years, there has been a significant transformation, brought by the rise of platform work and new forms of work, but also shown by transition rates: while job tenure (the duration of an employment relationship) is increasing in OECD countries, this is mainly due to ageing and people staying longer in their jobs before retirement. Below the surface, transition rates are rising, particularly for the young – and they more often mean transitions into and from unemployment, rather than job-to-job transitions.

Both trends forebode a possible ‘timebomb’ in social protection systems, as there is a lack of recognition of the risks of ‘dependent self-employed’. For instance, they are barred from collective negotiations in many countries, as they are not considered (unionised) employees, but as a cartel of self-employed if they would push for minimum standards. Some OECD member states, such as Sweden or the US are addressing this, creating a legal status of ‘dependent entrepreneurs’. This is urgent to address, as risks like unemployment are often not covered in the social protection coverage of this type of workers.

Mark Graham of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) explained efforts to bring platforms into a more formal and regulated form of economy from South Africa. For instance, he sketched out an initiative promoted among platform workers to assess the social performance of their employment platform and to stimulate a form of social dialogue. The OII is planning to try this scheme in Europe in the near future.

Importance of partnership with civil society in ESF

Amana Ferro of the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) presented work on in-work poverty, which is growing despite growing employment rates – this highlights a mismatch in the current growth context that leads to further exclusion of many workers. She mentioned growing polarisation of peoples’ opportunities, along different skillsets, geography, family situations, health statuses etc. She insisted on the importance of partnership with civil society in the planning and delivery of projects: NGOs can inform about the grassroots needs and ways of reaching out to excluded populations. With the European Pillar of Social Rights, there is a new mandate to consult civil society organisations when following-up on it, which should be used.

AGE: embed a life-cycle perspective in the European Social Fund

AGE participated in the discussion and various break-out sessions. AGE highlighted the importance of adopting a life-cycle perspective in the European Social Fund, by running projects on transitions, the reconciliation of work and care and taking a longer-term perspective of the outcomes that should be achieved by projects. The support of active and healthy ageing is among the aims of the current ESF framework, and in the proposed ESF+ regulation for the next 7-year budget cycle. This should be actively made use of.

Other recommendations towards the ESF were to aim for reaching out to vulnerable groups and to older workers with low skills.

Agenda of the conference

For more information, please contact Philippe Seidel Leroy at the AGE Secretariat: philippe.seidel@age-platform.eu

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