A people-focused European recovery from Coronavirus

If we are to emerge from this crisis strengthened, the EU must focus on delivering a society without poverty and with social justice at its core, argues Kira Marie Peter-Hansen
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Losing a job often has a huge impact on an individual and their family. Recently, the number of people in Europe unemployed has skyrocketed, and there is no telling when the charts will show positive signs. Yet behind every extra number on the unemployment lists is a person and perhaps a family, and these are some of the people we need to help.

By now, there is no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis will end up causing huge social damage, and a great number of people will be at risk of poverty. For those of us in the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA group, the most vital part of European social and employment policies is to make sure that people living and working in Europe can enjoy decent lives, no matter where they live.


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This is why we work for a poverty-proof European minimum income and an action plan to end in-work poverty. By setting standards at European level for minimum income schemes, we make sure that no one ends up in poverty if they lose their job. At the same time, it will mean higher wages in many parts of Europe as a welcome consequence, as wages naturally lie above the minimum income limit.

The European Commission’s establishment of the SURE temporary unemployment instrument is a step in the right direction in terms of focusing on sustaining people’s jobs. In the recovery, it is of utmost importance to keep people – rather than companies - in focus when making efforts to rebuild the economy. In the recovery to come, it is crucial to learn from the mistakes made in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

"An important part of the recovery is to make sure that it is not once again the most vulnerable people and the employees at the periphery of the labour market who have to pay for the crisis"

We need to keep people and the environment at the centre of everything we do - not big companies and their stakeholders. An important part of the recovery is to make sure that it is not once again the most vulnerable people and the employees at the periphery of the labour market who have to pay for the crisis. To do this, we are pushing the Commission to put forward an action plan to end in-work poverty and to establish proper regulation on platform work, particularly to ensure social protection and their right of assembly.

This was already a major issue in employment before the crisis, but it is now more important than ever. This will be a way forward to avoid the further flexibilisation and precariousness of jobs. We need to insist on the creation of quality jobs. One group particularly at risk of long-term unemployment is the younger generation, who will face a hard time entering the job market. This is why we need to ensure that Member States live up to the binding Youth Guarantee and prevent long-term youth unemployment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted deficiencies in the protection of seasonal and cross-border workers - both in relation to their health and safety and in terms of their social security and unemployment insurance. In the future, it is my hope that the European Labour Authority (ELA) will be able to provide that security and guide Member States where there are possible conflicts. I see a potential for the ELA enforcing labour law and thereby having an important role preventing social dumping.

"In this recovery, it is important not to forget important issues still in need of European solutions. We still face the climate crisis, which will have a great impact on the labour market"

However, for the time being, in my opinion, ELA does not have a strong enough mandate to protect our citizens. In this recovery, it is important not to forget that there are important issues that still need European solutions. We still face the climate crisis, which will have a great impact on the labour market. When taking the necessary steps to combat climate change, we need to find solutions and make sure European workers find jobs in other sectors as well as creating a just transition with education and training at its core.

We also need to keep focusing on stronger European leadership in relation to gender equality and particularly in closing the gender pay gap. This is why I find it worrying that the latest leak of the Commission’s work programme revealed that the only legislative proposal relating to gender equality and pay transparency has been postponed with a comment from the Commission that now is not the right time. In my view it is the wrong time to postpone promises of equality and justice.

We are facing many challenges in relation to the reopening of Europe and the recovery of our economy. In my view, the greatest challenge will be to hold the Commission to their promises on a social Europe, as there will be many requirements from many political sectors.

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