The European Semester has been launched a little over a month ago with the release of the Autumn Package by the Commission on 17 December 2019. CEEP already highlighted the main features of the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS), which put forward the general guidelines of a new growth model for our European Labour Market, largely marked by its commitment to environmental sustainability and social fairness.

The ASGS sets the general pillars of the EU economic policy framework for the coming years and it consists of an important reference point once it comes to the future actions of the Commission and, consequently, for the work of social partners. Alongside the ASGS, yet with another purpose, the Joint Employment Report (JER) has been also published as a part of the Semester´s kick off and brought up an extensive and detailed analysis of labour market conditions across the Member States. The JER is an extremely powerful tool as its robust outlook gives a solid basis for impact assessments of previous policies, for the design of new ones, as well as for the evaluation of their implementation processes.

The JER is extensive and captures multiple dimensions of European labour market dynamics. The overall scenario is marked by the already widespread figures of the continuous growth of employment – lately on a slower rhythm, especially among the current economic slowdown –, the improvement of the overall employability of the youth and the long-term unemployed, the declining of in-work poverty the developments towards closing a yet very large gender pay gap.

Going past those headlines, a few important indicators closely concern CEEP and its members. First of all, the report confirms the persistence of a shift of employment towards services. The services sector alone was responsible, in 2018, for the creation of 2.6 million jobs, which, in absolute terms, corresponds to the largest increase. Such a movement proves once again the vitality of the services sector to the performance of our economy and the well-being of European citizens. Policy makers must therefore seriously take into consideration the centrality of our sector for the current dynamics of the Single Market. Given the great share of the workforce under our realm, they have to listen to our members’ concerns and struggles to promote a tailored transition and avoid major social impacts.

Another important finding is related to skills mismatches on the labour market. The Commission has been rightly emphasizing the potentially severe impacts that will follow the demographic transition, digitalization and climate change on our labour market if we do not take immediate and accurate actions. According to the JER, labour shortages are not only present in the vast majority of Member States, but employers are increasingly perceiving labour as a limiting factor due to the lack of proper qualifications. The statistics on labour shortages are truly alarming:  there has been an increase of more than 10 percentage points in the last decade, bringing us to a considerably high mark of 21.8% in 2018.

We must also highlight that most, if not all, European labour market indicators will vary greatly among the Member States. This implies the need for country or region-specific measures in order to properly respond to those asymmetries. We all certainly share the major challenges ahead, and therefore, despite the differences, Social Dialogue is indispensable.

The labour market will face unprecedented transformations that will require constant adaptation for both employers and employees. Social partners should be placed at the forefront of these processes to guarantee that economic progress meets social and environmental sustainability.

CEEP is committed to overcome those challenges and concomitantly embrace the opportunities that they will bring. The EU Semester represents a powerful tool to achieve our goals and will therefore be one of the main priorities of the work of SAB.

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