The European Commission has launched a broad consultation so as to evaluate the EU’s current social acquis and reflect on new trends coming to the fore in terms of ways of working and in our society. The European Pillar of Social Rights is President Juncker’s promise in an effort to deepen the social dimension of the EMU (European Monetary Union). To the economic convergence that comes about from maintaining the single currency will be added social convergence, which is also required for the euro-zone to function correctly. “The purpose of the Pillar is to express a number of essential principles to support well-functioning and fair labor markets and welfare systems,” explains the consultation document.  It will rely on the EU community’s social acquis albeit ‘revamped’. “The consultation on the Pillar provides an opportunity to take a holistic view of the acquis, to review its relevance in the light of new trends and to identify possible areas for future action, at the appropriate level,” the document clarifies. The first preliminary outline of a European Pillar of Social Rights, which is also submitted to consultation, ranges from equal opportunities and access to the labor to adequate and sustainable social protection including fair working conditions. In it features the right for all to have life-long access to education and good quality training, the need for flexible employment contracts that can respond to fluctuations in demand yet under conditions that ensure transition to permanent contracts, the promotion of flexible work formulae aimed at work-life balance, adequate compensation in the case of redundancy, and the right to a decent wage, to a decent pension, etc.

Overall, the European Commission’s idea is to put a reference framework in place to evaluate the different Member States’ performance in terms of employment and social inclusion, against a backdrop of the changing reality of the world of work. Convergence will be promoted with the best performing Member States being held up as the model to follow. The European Commission sees this initiative as targeting the euro-zone area, while allowing other EU Member States to join, on a voluntary basis.

The current public consultation addresses other European institutions, national authorities and parliaments, social partners, stakeholders, civil society, experts from academia, and citizens. The consultation will run until the 31 December 2016 and the results will contribute to the legislative proposal due for presentation to the European Commission in the spring of 2017. In addition to the document that sets out the philosophy behind the initiative and takes up a series of questions for consultation as well as the Annex to the document that establishes the future principles for the European Pillar, the Commission also published a working document presenting new forms of employment and key behavioral and societal changes as well as trends that need to be taken into account in terms of social policy; plus a working document that describes the EU’s social acquis, with the Commission intent on studying this acquis in order to verify that it is still suitable to current work situations.