Policy papers

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As part of their autonomous work programme 2019-2021, on 17 September the European Social Partners organised a meeting on childcare provisions in the EU. This was part of a series of meetings bringing together EU and national social partners and experts to discuss how to improve the performance of labour markets and social systems. As a result, we have published the following statement:

General remarks

As recalled in the European Pillar of Social Rights, all children have the equal right to upbringing, high quality care and education for their personal development and well-being. Quality, accessibility and affordability of childcare are thus crucial to ensure these rights to all children in the EU, support disadvantaged groups in society and tackling poverty. Efforts are particularly needed to ensure care and leisure facilities to vulnerable children, such as children living in poverty and of ethnic minorities.

Available, accessible, affordable and quality childcare facilities are also essential for parents to work. Given that women are still predominantly responsible for caring duties, childcare is particularly important in increasing women’s employment, thereby making an essential contribution to gender equality and tackling the gender pay gap. At the same time, efforts should be made to incentivise more men to join the childcare workforce.

The Barcelona targets on childcare were agreed by EU member states in 2002. Whilst the target of 33 % of children under 3 years old in childcare has been reached across the EU as a whole and the target of 90 % of children from age 3 until mandatory school age has nearly been reached, this hides large differences between member states and among different territorial realities within the same state. Unfortunately, availability of accessible, affordable and quality childcare is not yet a reality in all countries, with some still significantly lagging behind. This has a negative impact on labour market participation of parents and therefore on employment overall, as well as on gender equality. In contrast, some member states have reached and even surpassed the Barcelona targets, which means they no longer act as an incentive in such cases, whereas continual improvements remain necessary across the whole of the EU.

Beside a general issue with understaffing, there is also a shortage of after school hours and holiday childcare in Europe. This is detrimental for children’s well-being and represents a major obstacle to full-time paid work for parents with school age children to remain in employment and increase their working hours, as well as attract more women into the labour market.

National childcare systems are diverse including in the funding structures, the share of public and private facilities and the modalities of provision, e.g. accessibility. We support effective investment in childcare, which ensures availability, accessibility, affordability and quality to all, in a long-term perspective – as enshrined in the EU’s Social Investment approach. This has to be determined by each member state according to their national system. The EU’s role is to complement member states’ efforts and we support the indication by the Commission that EU funding through the MFF, the recovery and resilience facility and the European Social Fund should complement member states’ investment in childcare.

The quality of childcare is very much determined by those that work in the sector. It is important to ensure that workers have the appropriate level of qualifications, good working and remuneration conditions, professional development paths, and that the value of the sector, including the educational value, is well recognised. These aspects are important in attracting and retaining staff and providing quality of service. Collective bargaining is a key tool to address challenges and bring about improvements in working conditions, in full respect of national industrial relations systems. Men are underrepresented in the sector, which contributes to gender stereotypes regarding male and female roles in the labour market as well as in society more broadly.

Social dialogue plays a role in developing practical tools to increase access and affordability to childcare, for example by creating joint funds by collective agreements to support childcare projects addressing specific needs of working parents in specific sectors, such as care for children with illness and disabilities, care outside regular opening hours.


In view of the general remarks above, the European Social Partners make the following recommendations.

To EU member states:
  • We encourage EU member states, in particular those who are lagging behind in implementation of the Barcelona targets, to step up their efforts to ensure provision of accessible, affordable and quality childcare in a sustainable way, in full respect of national systems, including by:
    • Focusing on childcare provision in their national recovery and resilience plans, including qualitative and quantitative objectives/targets, objectively verifiable milestones and appropriate and economically sustainable financial investments in the sector;
    • Using the funding opportunities provided by the recovery and resilience facility and the European Social Fund;
    • Implementing country specific recommendations on childcare as part of the semester process;
    • Using the Commission’s reform programme support mechanism;
    • Implementing principle 11 of the European Pillar of Social rights.
  • We encourage EU member states to support raising the 33% Barcelona target to at least 50% aiming for total coverage in the long run so that it provides more ambition for those already reaching or surpassing it, and to support introduction of a new target on provision of after school hours childcare.
  • We encourage the collection of more broken-down data, unveiling the social and territorial factors of inequalities in access to childcare provision, so as to better define the specific as well as the overall targets
  • We encourage EU member states to design their childcare policy always taking into account that public and private childcare providers need to be given a regulatory framework which allows for a level playing-field, whilst respecting that this is a decision for the national level;
  • We encourage EU member states to promote affordable, accessible and quality childcare facilities, by highlighting the importance and benefits for child development as well as for employment, labour markets and gender equality.
  • We encourage EU member states to promote the value of working in the sector, to ensure good working conditions including by strengthening collective bargaining and ensuring quality, stable jobs, fair salaries and adequate level of social protection and to take actions to attract staff to the sector, in particular men.
To the European Commission:
  • We call on the European Commission to include in the forthcoming Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights, actions to support member states in improving provision and quality of childcare and of tools and incentives to support the work life balance at work, in line with implementation of principles 2, 9 and 11 of the Pillar.
  • We call on the European Commission to strongly encourage member states, in particular those lagging behind in implementation of the Barcelona targets, to step up their efforts to ensure provision of accessible, affordable and quality childcare in a sustainable way, in full respect of national systems. This should include better follow-up with member states where more forceful action is needed to implement country-specific recommendations on childcare, including by:
    • Encouraging member states to focus on childcare provision in their national recovery and resilience plans, including by setting quantitative and qualitative objectives/targets, objectively verifiable milestones and costings;
    • Encouraging member states to channel the complementary financial support made available through the MFF, the recovery and resilience facility, and the European Social Fund, to improve provision of childcare and tools to support work life balance.
    • Supporting interested member states to improve childcare provision at the national level by mobilising the European Reform Support Programme;
    • Promoting learning between member states and social partners on how best to improve availability, affordability and quality of childcare provision in a way that supports economic growth, is fiscally viable, and adequately takes into account employers and workers’ needs.
  • We call on the Commission to support member states in setting comparable targets and to ensure that a monitoring and benchmarking of member states’ actions takes place at EU level. This should build on the existing work of the Council’s Social Protection and Employment Committees.
  • We call on the European Commission to gradually raise the current Barcelona target of 33% to at least 50% aiming for total coverage in the long run, taking into consideration also the quality, affordability and territorial diffusion (NB: For those member states that already reached the EU average of 35%, roughly half have already achieved 50% and the others have achieved between 37 – 49%. Therefore, this target would represent progress.
  • We call on the European Commission to introduce a new target for provision of after school hours childcare.
  • We encourage the Commission to support member states to promote the use of affordable, accessible and quality childcare facilities and the value of working in the sector, by highlighting the importance and benefits not only for employment, labour markets and gender equality, but also for child development and tackling child poverty.

CEEP Opinion on the Next Generation EU recovery instrument – PDF

Executive Summary:

  • Next Generation EU aims to mobilise €500bln in grants and €250bln in loans to Member States without involving the mutualisation of pre-existing debts. CEEP very much supports this proposal including its innovative character and its close interlink with the MFF 2021-2027.
  • The crisis has drastically exposed the result of years of underinvestment in social and physical infrastructures in some Member States. CEEP consequently calls for a precise and consistent emphasis on public services and services of general interest, as the current proposals fail to sufficiently emphasize the role of SGIs, which are the pillar underpinning the economic and social infrastructure of the EU.
  • The lack of an appropriate framework supporting those essential services will seriously jeopardise our economy’s overall capacity to recover as well as to overcome our long-term challenges: Next Generation EU gives EU and national institutions the chance to demonstrate that investment in physical and social infrastructures cannot be considered as a cost, but rather as the indispensable precondition to ensure long term competitiveness, employment and growth.
  • EU social partners represent a unique bridge capable of connecting stakeholders and allowing the consolidation of efficient and coordinated actions that bring together the EU, national, sectorial and company levels. Joint actions to foster social partners at national level must be a priority for a socially inclusive recovery: their active participation, also at regional and local levels, will be especially crucial when it comes to the design of national recovery plans.
  • EU leaders must remain aware of the evolving nature of the recovery instrument and be ready for eventual adaptations to the original proposal, embodied in the Next Generation EU. This can be achieved by Member States continuously showing flexibility and commitment to the core principles of unity and solidarity.
  • Special attention must be given to enhancing top-down and bottom-up articulations between levels of governance and across key stakeholders. The scale and scope of the recovery should not jeopardise the active participation of local and regional authorities, which are crucial for an efficient policy design and implementation.
  • It is crucial to mobilise the necessary funds to foster strategic investment and industrial ecosystems to better respond to future shocks. Other challenges, such as revising the current European framework of taxation and generating additional EU own resources, will follow with Member States still very far from an agreement. Against this challenging background, the idea of relying on uncertain income sources as proposed by the European Commission does not seems to be a pragmatic solution in the short term.

CEEP Position Papers
I. Contribution to sharpening Emergency Measures
II. The Design of an Efficient and Unified Economic Response
III. The Path to Recovery: a Strong MFF and an Unprecedented Investment Plan
IV. CEEP Opinion on the Next Generation EU recovery instrument

CEEP Messages and Press Releases
21 July 2020 – Press Release – MFF & Next Generation EU: Good for the Short-Term, Work to be done on the long-term
17 July 2020 – Press Release –  CEEP at the Informal EPSCO organised by the German Presidency of the Council of the EU
23 June 2020: Press Release – CEEP President Plassmann and General Secretary Ronzitti addressed the Tripartite Social Summit
27 May 2020: Press Release – CEEP comments on the EU recovery plan proposed by the European Commission
11 May 2020: Public Services and Services of General Interest on the Frontline Against COVID-19 – CEEP contribution to the magazine “Our World – Struck by the Pandemic”
5 May 2020: Press Release – CEEP Addresses the Impacts of COVID-19 on Demographic Change and Labour Markets at the Informal EPSCO
15 April 2020: Press Release – “Coordination between Member States is central when lifting containment measures”, says CEEP
27 March 2020: Press Release – Launch of the EU Platform “Services of General Interest facing COVID-19”
26 March 2020: CEEP Letter to the European Council on the COVID-19 emergency
26 March 2020: Press Release – EU welfare systems and the social market economy must be preserved, Whatever It Takes
13 March 2020: Press Release – CEEP Reacts to the European Commission’s Response to Counter the Economic impact of COVID-19

Joint Statement of the EU Social Partners (CEEP, ETUC, BusinessEurope, SMEUnited)
23 April 2020: Joint letter of the EU Social Partners (ETUC, BusinessEurope, CEEP, SMEUnited) to President von der Leyen, ahead of the European Council
23 April 2020: Joint input of the EU Social Partners (ETUC, BusinessEurope, CEEP, SMEUnited) to the European Council
24 March 2020: Statement of the European Social Partners (ETUC, BusinessEurope, CEEP, SMEUnited) to the European Council on the COVID-19 emergency
16 March 2020: Statement of the European Social Partners (ETUC, BusinessEurope, CEEP, SMEUnited) to the ECOFIN on the COVID-19 emergency

CEEP Opinion on the EU Green Deal – Working Together on a Fair and Sustainable Path – PDF

Executive Summary

  • CEEP welcomed the announcement of a European Green Deal and fully supports its goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. CEEP members are committed to developing a balanced and sustainable strategy relying on the economic, social and environmental development. Indeed, it will be essential to take these three dimensions into account for the Green Deal to reach its objectives for 2050.
  • CEEP welcomes the efforts of the European Commission to propose the first-ever EU Climate Law, to ensure all EU policies contribute to the European Green Deal objectives for a net-zero emission target.However, we do not share the Commission’s statement that an impact assessment is not required because a full analysis on the implications of the 2050 climate-neutrality objective has already been provided in support of the “Clean Planet for All” communication. We therefore call upon the European Commission to deliver a proper Impact Assessment.
  • CEEP positively receives the Commission’s recognition to promote more and direct investments for sustainable technology, research and innovations and welcomes the new Sustainable Europe Investment Plan (SEIP) including its social transition finance plans published in the Just Transition Mechanism and Just Transition Fund. Here, public services and SGIs can pave the way towards cultural cohesion, and economic and environmental sustainability thanks to their proximity in society.
  • CEEP welcomes the Commission’s new European Climate Pact and underlines the importance of social inclusion, since there cannot be a transition without acceptance of society. At the same time, the Green Deal must be inclusive and avoid social divides, therefore CEEP supports the continued effort on re-skilling and up-skilling our society to make this climate transition a success.
  • CEEP congratulates the European Commission for recognising digitalisation as an important driver in this climate transition and considers the digital sector as part of the solution to achieve the sustainability goals in the Green Deal. In parallel we emphasise the need to also include not only new technological advantages but also behavioural or regulatory innovations in order to improve energy efficiency, water usage, transport and waste management.
  • CEEP welcomes the extension of the Emission Trading System (ETS) also to the transport and building sectors. However, CEEP calls for an alignment of the ETS Directive as well as a development of an adequate carbon pricing.
  • CEEP recognises that despite the efforts made, the first environmental damages are being witnessed and there is a need for an adaptation strategy that goes beyond the reduction of CO2 emissions. We have therefore welcomed with great enthusiasm the intensions to introduce a new Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and a Zero-Pollution Action Plan.

During the meeting of the General Assembly on 27 June 2019, CEEP members have adopted an opinion “A Sustainable Climate Strategy for Europe: Acting Now! – Statement on Climate “For Sibiu and Beyond”“.

Our key messages are the following:

  • Global warming is a major risk and climate policies must be developed as part of a sustainable approach.
  • A prerequisite for success is the social acceptability of these policies, which requires greater equity and democracy, particularly at the local level.
  • CEEP members manage essential infrastructure and provide SGIs that contribute to well-being and competitiveness; their proximity to economic actors makes them key players in climate policies.
  • The EU Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 needs to recognise that role and put “enablers” of sustainable climate policies at its centre.

The European Union has given long-lasting peace across our continent and has brought European people together around the fundamental values of democracy, human rights, freedom and equality.

Democracy needs to be lived in order to remain alive. We therefore urge citizens across Europe to go out and vote in the European elections from 23-26 May 2019 in order to have a say on the future and to defend democracy, sustainable economic growth and social justice.

The EU has been instrumental in making the European way of life what it is today. It has brought unprecedented economic and social progress and continues to bring tangible benefits for citizens, workers and enterprises across Europe.

These are uncertain times for Europe and for the world. Whilst we are on a path towards recovery, the economic and social consequences of the crisis can still be felt by citizens, workers and enterprises. Some people question or even reject the European project. We are facing huge challenges – international tensions, re-defining the EU-UK relationship, migration, unemployment, prospects for our youth, the climate and digital transformation and in several countries, increasing economic and social inequalities. But the answer is not to pull up the drawbridge and retreat – we must stand up and take action in a united way.

The EU project has to remain resilient and strong and we, the European Social Partners, believe that it can continue to help us to face our challenges and design a brighter future for Europe, its citizens, workers and enterprises. Europe is still one of the best places in the world to live, work and do business. We have much to be proud of and to cherish and we should build on this, together.

In this spirit, we will continue to contribute to a successful European project and a united Europe that delivers for its workers and enterprises, focusing on initiatives that improve their everyday lives and offer a better future full of opportunities for all.

Today, [on 6 February 2018], CEEP, ETUC, BusinessEurope and SMEunited have signed their 6th autonomous Social Partners Work Programme. The official signing ceremony was attended by Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Vice-President for Social Dialogue and the Euro, Marius-Constantin Budăi, Romanian Minister of Labour and Social Justice, and Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs.

During the signing ceremony, CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:

“With this 6th Autonomous joint work programme, the European Social Partners renew their commitment to address the challenges our members face on a daily basis.

Representing public services and SGI employers, CEEP looks forward to negotiating an autonomous agreement on digitalisation. Together with our trade unions counterparts, we will design solutions to accompany the transformation brought up by automation, artificial intelligence and the rise of the data economy on the labour market. Developing skills and innovation, empowering national social partners via capacity-building and promoting circular economy are other key issues bearing new opportunities for Social Partners to work together.

We are confident that, through this Work-programme, we, the European Social Partners, will prepare and promote constructive and pragmatic solutions for a fair, competitive and sustainable Europe.”

You can consult the Work Programme here.

Video presentation:

CEEP Opinion – Brexit, Trade and SGIs “Reflection on brexit and trade: possible options” – PDF

Executive summary

  • CEEP intends to contribute to the Brexit debate by identifying reflection tracks towards ensuring level-playing field in a post-Brexit EU-UK relationship, in which providers of public services and of SGIs can operate for the benefits of citizens and companies.
  • Brexit will have fundamental political, economic and legal consequences for both sides. These consequences will be shaped by the features of the agreement that is currently being negotiated. The two parties will have to reach an agreement in the following three main areas: First, the United Kingdom and the EU will need to agree on the regime for the trade of goods and services. Second, new rules are needed for migration. Third, the United Kingdom needs to be disentangled legally from the European Union (European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018).
  • In this statement, CEEP argues that solutions like the free trade agreement with Canada (CETA) do not justice to the close European ties between the UK and the EU. A comprehensive, but flexible free trade agreement with much EU acquis and deep and comprehensive content, such as the DCFTA currently in force between the EU and Ukraine, seems most likely able to meet interconnection requirements between both countries and to foster cooperation and common policy-making in the future. Therefore, it is highly desirable for the economic prosperity of the EU and the UK.
  • The future trade negotiations for free trade agreements like the DCFTA should respect environmental, social and security standards. Especially, the possibility to amend the agreement in view of political or economic developments is crucial given the geographic, historical, political and economic relations between the European Union member states and the United Kingdom. A DCFTA oriented agreement can assure a high degree of access to the EU single market, at least for trade in goods, but not necessarily for movement of people and services.

CEEP Position Paper on a Future European Labour Authority – PDF

Executive Summary

  • The creation of the European Labour Authority should strengthen cooperation between labour market authorities at all levels and lead to the better management of cross-border situations, as well as to further initiatives in support of fair mobility, and proper coordination of European Social Security schemes.
  • CEEP wishes for three principles to be respected by the future ELA:
    • The Principle of subsidiarity and member states’ own authorities must be respected.
    • ELA must leave space for the different labour market models and priorities Member States may have. It is crucial that a European labour authority does not touch on the autonomy of the social partners and the key role that they play.
    • The ELA should not have any supra-national competences. It should concern itself with improving the enforcement of existing rules, facilitating intra-EU mobility and promote mutual learning between National authorities.
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