Social Progress Lab: need for alternative reforms to enhance Europe’s social dimension

The five Presidents’ report of 22 June 2015 sets out the vision of the European institutions for strengthening Europe’s economic, financial, and fiscal union, but says little or nothing about the social dimension of the Union. SOLIDAR regrets that this report is another missed opportunity to place social progress on an equal footing with economic growth and fiscal responsibility. ","The road towards a genuine political union reportedly goes through economic, financial and fiscal union, but social cohesion seems to be left by the wayside. “Social” and “solidarity” are largely absent from the policy making of EU leaders. Although Juncker, then President of the Eurogroup, was co-author of the Four-Presidents-Paper in 2012, the responsibility for the creation of shock-absorption measures has been shifted from the EU level to the Member States.

The overemphasis on competiveness sidelines any genuine proposals to bring about social convergence. SOLIDAR would like to see concrete proposals to find a solution to the situation described in the report: high unemployment, especially long-term and youth unemployment, social exclusion, and inequality. While placing responsibility for adequate wage development on National Competitiveness Authorities might lead to a convergence of wages, the likely outcome will be a race to the bottom.

The report states that ‘Sustainable convergence also requires a broader set of policies that come under the heading of ‘structural reforms’ …].’ While structural reforms could improve the functioning of Europe’s economy, SOLIDAR does not agree with the current interpretation of these reforms {‘…] i.e. reforms geared at modernising economies to achieve more growth and jobs. That means both more efficient labour and product markets and stronger public institutions’} as they might enhance further erosion of labour standards and social safeguards. This type of reform places the cost and burden of the crisis unfairly on workers and the most vulnerable. Therefore, SOLIDAR is currently developing alternative proposals for structural reforms that make our societies fairer and more inclusive.

On 6 July 2015, SOLIDAR will host a group of scholars and independent thinkers in Turin, Italy for our Social Progress Lab symposium. On the campus of the International Training Centre of the ILO and with the support of ACTRAV (ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities) the selected participants, guided by our Scientific Advisory Group, will discuss and develop alternatives that will lead to the creation of quality jobs, inclusive growth, and social investment by setting high social safeguards.

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