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Principle 4

Active support to employment

Ensuring that quality and inclusive education, training, and lifelong learning be a right and equality accessible for all learners and workers  is crucial. 52 million adults in Europe are low-qualified and several countries one third of the workers have very low level of basic literacy and numeracy skills. Upskilling and reskilling of the adults in Europe is therefore a social responsibility and the unemployed and the workers need effective support within the labour market  for fairer technological and green transitions.

Common projects run by the EU social partners and a Joint Statement provide proof that accessibility to employee training varies massively across the Single Market depending on contractual status, gender, and socio-economic background of the workers, and training rights differ depending of the different sizes of companies, industries and services, public and private companies, and the geographic areas in Europe.  Adoption of this principle should also look at the removal of discrimination based on employment status and take into consideration the effect it has on fighting inequality and in promoting inclusion of women in the labour market.

It is essential to support the implementation of the first principle of the Pillar with sustainable public investment to education and training, enhances by the European Semester process and clear targets within the Social Scoreboard,  and by companies taking financial responsibility towards workers’ training,  The link between ESF+ and implementation of the EPSR is clear. However, financial commitment on its own is not sufficient. In the negotiations for the next MFF (2021-2027) there is a proposal that would potentially lead to a double cut in spending by the European Social Fund+ (ESF+), as a result of scrapping the existing 23.1% minimum share of Cohesion Policy funding that has to be spent by the Member States in ESF+ projects. ESF+ should be used in a way that all workers, at all skill levels, may benefit from high-quality, inclusive employee training and paid educational leave leading to qualifications.

Each EU member state should guarantee access and right to education and training provisions for all age learners and countries where such right is not provided should make actions within effective social dialogue with the social partners to implement the first principle. Member states’ actions should aim at enhancing the ability of workers to access quality and inclusive training relating to professional and basic skills and key competences, including digital skills, throughout their working lives. Best practice shows the added value of trade unions in designing a right-based approach to training and further education of workers, irrespective of employment status, and having regard to gender perspectives.

An EU-level initiative to set up “Individual Learning Accounts” for people of working age may be one of the tools which can help to guarantee these rights and may provide a good solution to portability of training rights. However, since the topic impacts working conditions and collective bargaining in many Member States, the European Commission should not proceed with drafting a proposal without having involved the social partners in the process. Any initiative should combine individual access to training with collective rights to ensure that Individual Training Accounts fall under the joint responsibility of employers and authorities, in accordance with national practices. An EU-level initiative should set minimum standards while fully respecting the national training systems and the role of social partners and must fully respect existing collective agreements and national practices in the sector. Social protection may intervene to establish funding for Principle 1, but it should go hand-in-hand with more protection at work, including greater protection against (collective) dismissal. Otherwise, employers would be incentivised to opt for dismissals instead of investing in their own workforce to get through the transition together.

Actions setting a minimum floor of rights

  1. 1. EU initiative setting up Individual Learning Accounts for people of working age
  2. Recommendation to establish a right to receive training leading to qualifications and validation/recognition of skills and competences.
  3. Follow-up of implementation of the Council recommendation on a European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships
  4. Traineeship measures to oblige employers to sign an internship contract at the start of the internship.
  5. Promote collective bargaining to establish employers’ financial contributions to the right of employees to receive training, and paid educational leave.

Actions establishing upward convergence in living and working conditions

  1. Monitor and measure employees’ access to training to achieve a minimum number of days per worker and investment of the employers to their workers’ trainings.
  2. Sufficient EU funds to support skills development and lifelong learning.
  3. Monitoring indicators: companies’ investments per employee compared to wage aggregates for vocational training available to employees.
  4. Provide government support to trade unions to provide information to workers at company level on training opportunities
  5. Provide effective support to low-skilled workers to access training on key competences, basic skills, and professional skills.