Social justice must be at the heart of the green and digital transitions. This means addressing the social and economic impacts of these transitions, and more specifically focusing on the regions, industries and workers that will face the greatest inherent challenges.
That is why the von der Leyen Commission created the Just Transition Mechanism, the EU’s key tool for ensuring this happens in a fair way, which will mobilise up to €55 billion by 2027 to provide targeted support.
Despite the added complexities of the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, the EU has been able to preserve employment. This is happening through a combination of short-term flexibility and long-term vision embodied by the Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency programme (SURE).
SURE helped employers keep employees at work by paying their salaries during the lockdowns, and in 2021, continued to protect jobs while laying the groundwork for a robust economic recovery.
Additional tools for an inclusive economic recovery
NextGenerationEU is an €800 billion recovery instrument to help repair the immediate economic and social damage brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. It supports enterprises and business development, strengthens healthcare systems, finances training programmes, employment schemes, and provides school equipment and material assistance for those most in need. One of the largest programmes under the new Next Generation EU instrument is REACT-EU, which promotes recovery across the EU by boosting growth in less-developed regions.
State aid was also an important part of the Commission’s economic response to the pandemic. Since the start of the crisis, the Commission approved nearly 1 010 national measures for an estimated total amount of around €3.2 trillion. The State Aid COVID Temporary Framework was phased out on 30 June 2022.
Meanwhile, in November 2021, the Commission adopted a communication on a competition policy fit for new challenges. It highlights the important role of competition policy in Europe’s journey towards recovery, the green and digital transitions and a resilient single market.
Finally, a strong social market economy that puts people’s well-being first is the most resilient model for a technologically driven post-pandemic world. That is why in March 2021, the European Pillar of Social Rights action plan was adopted. This plan proposed the following three ambitious EU headline targets for 2030.
A group of citizens in Warsaw launched the "Pulawska 20" shop to collect and deliver free food, cosmetics and clothing to Ukrainian refugees and those internally displaced.
The European skills agenda is a 5-year plan to help individuals and businesses develop more and better skills, fill in job gaps and thrive in the greener, more digital economy. Launched in November 2020, the pact brings together companies, workers, local authorities, social partners, training providers and employment services to identify what skills will be needed in different sectors and to make commitments to reskill workers. So far, more than 600 organisations have signed up to the pact and pledged to help upskill 1.5 million people.
The Council adopted recommendations on individual learning accounts and micro-credentials in June 2022. To ensure that Europe continues to be world class in education, the Commission has launched a European strategy for universities that will greatly improve the competitiveness of our higher education systems through larger and deeper transnational cooperation.
In June 2022, the Parliament and the Council reached a historic agreement on the directive on adequate minimum wages, proposed by the Commission in October 2020. This law has been a priority for the von der Leyen Commission from the start, and will help improve the adequacy of minimum wages and increase the access of workers to minimum wage protection across the EU.
To protect workers against new challenges linked to the digitalisation of the world of work, the Commission proposed a directive on improving the working conditions in platform work in December 2021.
The proposal aims to ensure that people working through digital labour platforms are granted the legal employment status that corresponds to their actual work arrangements and can enjoy the labour rights and social benefits they are entitled to.
When Russia attacked Ukraine, the Romanian business community came together to launch jobs4ukr.com, a platform to help Ukrainian refugees find employment across the EU.