European Semester: First critical moment to implement the Pillar of Social Rights

On 22 November, the European Commission presented the Autumn Package of the European Semester, setting out the EU's economic and social priorities for the year ahead.

Only a few days after the Social Summit in Gothenburg saw the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Semester will be the main tool to implement the Pillar. For SOLIDAR, the key elements are the Joint Employment Report and the Employment Guidelines as a basis for the country specific Recommendations.

SOLIDAR welcomes the statement by the Commission that social fairness remains a priority and the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights will be part of the Semester from now on.

The Joint Employment Report makes use of the newly proposed Social Scoreboard, where the performance of Member States is assessed on the basis of 14 headline indicators in three fields: Equal opportunities and access to the labour market, Dynamic labour markets and fair working conditions, Public support/Social protection and inclusion. The Joint Employment Report also takes into account the national policy reforms regarding the ambitions set by the Pillar.

SOLIDAR welcomes the fact that this year's proposal for the Joint Employment Report is aligned with the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Nevertheless, SOLIDAR remains critical towards the concrete outline of the Social Scoreboard. There is already a variety of existing tools that monitor social and employment developments in Europe (e.g. the annual Employment and Social Developments in Europe report or the Employment Performance Monitor and the Social Protection Performance Monitor), therefore a more comprehensive and coordinated approach would be useful to capture the employment and social situation in Europe. Furthermore, the link between the chosen set of indicators and the principles enshrined in the Pillar is not always obvious. SOLIDAR also regrets the missing link between the Social Scoreboard and the performance measurement of Member States regarding their achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

For SOLIDAR, the achievement of the principles set out in the European Pillar of Social Rights will not be possible without investment in education, health, social protection and social services. Consequently, the Employment Guidelines and related country-specific recommendations must be supported and implemented through structural reforms that “focus on creating the conditions to boost investment further and to increase real wage growth to support domestic demand”, as stated by the Commission, a shift in language very much welcomed by SOLIDAR.