The European Pillar of Social Rights – a tool to address social and health inequities

17 March 2016

The European Pillar of Social Rights – a tool to address social and health inequities

It was in September 2015, that President Juncker first brought up the idea of establishing the European Pillar of Social Rights in his address in front of the Members of the European Parliament. That time he said that "We have to step up the work for a fair and truly pan-European labour market. (…) As part of these efforts, I will want to develop a European pillar of social rights, which takes account of the changing realities of the world of work. And which can serve as a compass for the renewed convergence within the euro area. "

The Pillar of Social Rights is intended to be a self-standing reference document, setting out key principles and values shared at EU level,  that could serve as a framework to screen employment and social performance in the context of changing work patterns and societies[1].

Since it was proposed, it has been the topic of lengthy internal discussions about the initiative within the European Commission leading to the appointment of a Special Adviser on the Pillar (Mr. Allan Larsson, former Director-General), and to the launch of a consultation on the Pillar.

The aim of the consultation is to assess if the present EU social “acquis” (the binding and non-binding EU laws, treaties, regulations, directives, decisions, and other declarations, resolutions, etc. on the EU social policy) is still relevant and if it responds adequately to our recent social challenges. The Commission would also like to know if the preliminary outline of the Pillar covers all topics in relation with social rights that concerns us today:

EuroHealthNet supports the Communication and the development of a European Pillar of Social Rights. Improvements in quality of work and social protection systems can improve the life of European citizens and reduce health inequalities[2]. No single sector can address the structural determinants of health inequities on its own. The European Commission’s broad consultation process encourage all stakeholders to contribute to defining policies that reflect the European social values and contribute to fairness and wellbeing for all.

On the basis of the received proposals, at the beginning of next year the Commission will put forward a proposal for a final Pillar, which “should become a reference framework to screen employment and social performance of participating Member States and to drive reforms at national level. More specifically, it should also serve as a compass for renewed convergence within the euro area.”[3] In the meantime, the Commission is continuing its work according to its Work Programme, which is promised to continue with several related dossiers, such as the strategy on working conditions and health and the maternity leave directive.

EuroHealthNet will respond to the Consultation and provide tools for all our members and partners to fully engage and support this process. As health inequalities are increasing within and between European Member States[4], we believe that the initiative can serve as a strong tool to address the root causes of social and health inequities and to consolidate the EU aims to inclusive and sustainable growth. We hope that all European countries (even those outside the Eurozone) will participate in this initiative.

There are still many steps to be taken and the road to implementation will be difficult, however the proposal represents an open opportunity to take action and advance our common goals of achieving a healthy and sustainable Europe for all.

If you would like to get involved you can submit your comments by email to Rita Fober or Cristina Chiotan.

The consultation is open until December 2016 and can be accessed here.

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[1] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-64_en.htm

[2] Goldblatt P, Siegrist J, Lundberg O, Marinetti C, Farrer L &Costongs C (2015). Improving health equity through action across the life course: Summary of evidence and recommendations from the DRIVERS project. Report produced as part of the ‘DRIVERS for Health Equity project’, Brussels: EuroHealthNet

[3] Launching a consultation on a European Pillar of Social Rights 

[4] Health inequalities in the EU — Final report of a consortium. Consortium lead: Sir Michael Marmot