By Caritas Europa
All across Europe, work still fails to be ‘decent’. Minimum wages that are insufficient to meet basic needs trap many people in in-work poverty. We see increasing forms of non-standard employment that have little to no social protection coverage and a significant informal economy that exposes workers to exploitation. To raise awareness of this and other labour market inclusion challenges, one of SDG Watch Europe’s members, Caritas Europa, organised a webinar on 22 November to assess how the EU and its Member States can advance towards achieving SDG 8 (decent work) in the context of the COVID-19 recovery.
The COVID-19 crisis has further worsened the labour market situation across Europe and has impacted the progress Member States had been making on achieving this Sustainable Development Goal. It is now more important than ever for the EU and its Member States to refocus on guaranteeing decent work for all.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions and an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General António Guterres, pointed out during his intervention that due to the transitions in digitalisation and automation, many people need training and retraining. This capacity-building would enable people to maintain formal employment to meet their and their families needs. Mirzha de Manuel, member of Executive Vice President Dombrovskis’ cabinet, emphasised that COVID-19 has also offered us an opportunity to address the challenges in our current economic model, highlighting many of the recent and upcoming Commission initiatives to tackle the existing challenges. As Professor Sachs rightly stated, strengthening and enforcing Europe’s social model and the European Social Charter will be an important foundation to build on.
But the starting point, as Cardinal Turkson noted in his intervention, is that policymakers, employers, and each of us need to recognise the importance of human dignity and to centre our economy on the value and worth of all human beings. Jobs should promote the dignity of the human person, not their exploitation. All future initiatives and policies at the EU and national levels should be centred on this understanding, contribute to implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights, and aim to fulfil all SDGs holistically and coherently.