On 18 November 2020, the European Commission presented its European Semester Autumn Package, including the Euro area recommendation 2021 and the Proposal for a Joint Employment Report 2021. This is the second step in the 2021 European Semester cycle which began in September with the publication of the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, and provided policy guidance to Member States in drawing up their Recovery and Resilience Plans, as well as defined the relationship between the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and the European Semester.

The Euro area recommendation 2021 emphasises the RRF as the main EU’s recovery instrument from the COVID-19 crisis. CEEP strongly appreciates that great attention is being paid to increasing the level and quality of investments, in particular for the acceleration of the green and digital twin transitions, and that the Commission urges coordinated reforms to ensure cohesion, and foster productivity and growth. In fact, the Recommendation places particular emphasis on reforms and investments to improve labour market integration through effective active labour market policies, on improving the quality and inclusiveness of education and training systems, as well as on closing the gender gap. Similarly, CEEP welcomes the Commission’s focus on health and social protection systems as automatic stabilisers in the crisis that serve to strengthen economic and social resilience in the Euro area, with the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights as an essential element guiding national policies.

The Proposal for a Joint Employment Report provides a complete overview of the main employment and social developments in the EU and reveals the devastating impacts the COVID-19 crisis has had on the six-year-long positive trend in EU labour markets. In the Report, the Commission acknowledges that immediate reactions of Member States, notably their swift adoption of short-time work schemes (STWs), have been pivotal to support employment, and calls on Member States to keep these measures in place as long as necessary. In this regard, CEEP appreciates the encouragement to Member States to accompany these measures with upskilling and reskilling schemes, introducing support for the reallocation of labour towards green and digital economy. Nevertheless, CEEP believes that EU intervention through the Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) should be further extended to help Member States in these efforts. CEEP also considers that further urgent action is needed to sustain weak segments of the labour market, in particular young people, women, and low-skilled workers who have been most affected by the deterioration of the labour market. Thus, CEEP believes that EU Funds have a key role to play in supporting Member States in implementing reforms for the modernisation of labour market institutions, as well as education, training, and social protection systems. Finally, whilst the unprecedented pressure exerted on health, education and social protection systems during the COVID-19 crisis is acknowledged, CEEP believes that more attention should be paid to the role that enabling, public and social services have for recovery, especially in light of the evidence that underinvestment in these sectors has detrimental effects on the sustainability of the system as a whole.

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