European Commission announces initiatives for social growth
On Thursday 9th and Friday 10th November, The European Commission has presented a series of initiatives to help the European economy thrive, tapping into its economic and job-creation potential, as well as its contribution to a fair and inclusive recovery, and the green and digital transitions. Such initiatives include focuses on a Social Economy Action Plan, platform work, micro-credentials and individual learning accounts.
As part of the package, the European Commission (EC) is seeking to establish a clear and coherent European Union (EU) approach to platform work.
Digital labour platforms are internet-based companies that organise the work provided by workers or self-employed people to third-party clients. The work can either be provided in a specific physical location (e.g. food delivery) or online (e.g. translation services). These platforms rely on algorithm-based technologies to efficiently match supply and demand for labour or services.
Platforms offer innovation and flexibility, and respond to consumer demand. Over 28 millon people in the EU work through digital platforms, which is expected to rise to 43 million by 2025.
However the sector’s rapid growth has generated legal uncertainty, increased litigation, and unfair conditions. It is thought, for example that up to 5.5 million people working through platforms may be wrongly classified as self-employed and therefore unable to access labour and social rights. On the other hand, many others are unclear about their terms and conditions and how their tasks are allocated and prices are set. To date, few member states have adopted national legislation to address these issues, making it difficult for workers to understand their rights and for platforms to expand their businesses.
The EC is proposing criteria that aims to increase legal clarity, and is inviting all interested parties to comment on the draft Guidelines by 24 February 2022.
Social economy action plan
The EC is introducing a Social economy action plan that focuses on three areas: creating the right conditions for this sector to thrive by ensuring appropriate policy and legal frameworks; enabling organisations to start and grow by making funding more efficient and; increasing its profile.
There are 2.8 million social economy entities in Europe that employ 13.6 million people and address key challenges in our societies. These non-profit making organisations include businesses, cooperatives, and charities that have strong local roots and prioritise social goals. They create and retain quality jobs, promote green and digital transitions, contribute to social and labour market inclusion and play an important role in Europe’s welfare systems.
With this action plan, the EC seeks to replicate innovative ideas across the EU.
Individual learning accounts
The EC aims to improve life-long learning and employability by presenting new proposals on individual learning accounts.
Individual learning accounts are ‘virtual wallets’, established by national authorities, for people of working age.
At the Porto Social Summit in May 2021, the EU proposed that 60% of all adults should participate in training every year by 2030. This is because a strong skill set creates opportunities, promotes inclusion and provides the economy with an appropriately skilled labour force. However, too few people participate in regular learning activities, as they often lack resources or are unaware of the opportunities and their benefits.
This proposal aims to ensure that everyone has access to relevant training opportunities that are tailored to their needs, throughout life. As part of the proposal, national authorities would ensure adequate annual provision of individual training entitlements to these accounts, with higher amounts for people in most need. People would then be able to accumulate these entitlements and use them throughout their career.
The EC seeks to improve life-long learning and employability by presenting proposals on micro-credentials.
A micro-credential is the record of the learning outcomes that a learner has acquired following a small learning experience (e.g. short course or training), and certifies what knowledge, skill or competence they have acquired. They are already widely used in many education and training sectors, professions and labour markets.
The EC aims to establish a European approach that provides a single definition for micro-credentials, common standards, and improves recognition across borders. Given their flexibility, micro-credentials can be designed and delivered by a variety of providers in many different settings. The aim is to ensure that they are of high quality and issued in a transparent way.
The proposals will now be negotiated with member states. Once adopted, the EC will support states, and relevant stakeholders in implementing these recommendations.