Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

Bordeaux, 15 February 2022

Under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Élisabeth Borne, the French Minister of Labour, Employment and Economic Inclusion, was joined in Bordeaux by the European labour and social affairs ministers and Nicolas Schmit, the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, for an informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council meeting dedicated to the impact of the digital and ecological transitions on the labour market.

With European social partners, MEPs and representatives of civil society and international organisations in attendance, the European ministers agreed on the importance of investing in skills, supporting career transitions and strengthening social dialogue in light of these changes.

The digital and ecological transitions entail profound shifts in the labour market with jobs being created while others disappear or evolve. Due to these shifts, not only do businesses have a need for new skills, but there is also a need to support reskilling for salaried employees whose jobs are jeopardised.

It is therefore vital that the EU Member States make investments enabling the adaptation of employees’ skills in order to protect jobs while strengthening social dialogue, which is essential given the shifts under way in businesses and the labour market.

Investing in skills to provide training for professions of the future and anticipate needs

The ministers agreed on the importance of investing in skills in Europe in order to identify and anticipate training needs for jobs of the future, in terms of both initial training for young people and reskilling for adults. They discussed how to mobilise European funds and to strengthen the European framework in this area.

The EU has already taken initiatives to support these transformations, namely through the European Skills Agenda presented by the European Commission in July 2020.

In light of this, the investment made by the EU in supporting training measures is also essential, and takes the form of a range of programmes, namely the European Social Fund +, the Just Transition Fund, the InvestEU Programme and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. The Recovery and Resilience Facility funding can also support measures to address the training challenges resulting from the digital and ecological transition.

Supporting career transitions for workers

The ministers also agreed on the necessity of putting in place measures to support career transitions to enable workers impacted by these changes to adapt their skills or find new employment. They underscored the importance of providing security for workers pursuing training or undergoing transitions in this context. The ministers discussed the initiatives already in place at national level and the most effective way of implementing them. They also spoke about the coordination of these initiatives with European funding and how to strengthen European action in this field.

The Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights includes several initiatives that aim to address this issue. In December 2021, the Commission presented three proposals for recommendations that particularly concern the challenges of supporting occupational transitions: a recommendation on individual learning accounts, a recommendation on micro-credentials for skills and a cross-cutting recommendation on ensuring a fair transition towards climate neutrality.

European funding, in particular through the Just Transition Fund and the European Social Fund +, can provide support to the workers and regions most affected by the green transition, by financing training, re-qualification and economic diversification. Lastly, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund aims to offer urgent assistance to workers displaced due to large-scale structural changes, and to support them in finding new employment. The Recovery and Resilience Facility can also provide funding in this context.

Strengthening European and national social dialogue

The partners agreed on strengthening social dialogue in Europe and in each Member State on issues concerning the ecological and digital transitions. They agreed to initiate discussion on how to improve social partnerships and encourage social dialogue at all levels (European, national, local and in specific sectors) in response to the changes under way.
At European level, the political framework of social dialogue is defined in the European Pillar of Social Rights, which specifies that the social partners must be consulted on the design of economic and social policies, and encouraged to reach collective agreements. As part of the plan to implement the Pillar of Social Rights, the Commission will present an initiative in the second half of 2022 designed to support social dialogue at EU and national level, particularly in relation to the ecological and digital transitions.

The changes under way in our societies, whether related to the digital revolution or the climate, are sources of concern for our fellow citizens. The role of each Member State and of the European Union must be to protect jobs and ensure that each European will always have their place in society. This is why it is imperative to invest in initial and ongoing training and reskilling, as the EU and many Member States are doing, and to fully recognise the importance of social dialogue in response to these transformations. This is a key issue for the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union and is essential to build Europe’s future growth.

— Élisabeth Borne, Ministry of Labour, Employment and Economic Inclusion

The challenges we face are enormous. However, the recovery provides us the opportunity to promote a more equitable and inclusive labour market. The Skills Agenda aims to make the right to training and lifelong learning inscribed in the European foundation for social rights a reality throughout Europe. The Member States must put skills at the heart of their policies. If we wish for a lasting recovery as we emerge from the pandemic, we will have to strengthen investment in people and their skills. In this way, each one of us will be able to seize the new opportunities that arise in the rapidly changing labour market.

Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights

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