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Employment and Social Rights Policy

Page history last edited by Sotiris Koulermou 14 years ago

The necessity to establish a common policy amongst the Member states of the European Union on the crucial issue of equal opportunities between men and women and people with disabilities reflects the significance on the objectives of the European Union to achieve enlargement, social coherence and additionally to increase the level of employment. The Treaties of the European Union in accordance with Directives and the case-law of the European Court of Justice on issues of equal pay, maternity protection, parental leave, social security, discrimination cases, people with disabilities and self-employment have developed the legislation of the European Union in a level whereby equality represents a fundamental right of Union amongst the Member states.


An annual Report on Equality between men and women presents the progress which has been achieved. Several institutes work for the achievement of equality between men and women such as the EU Gender Institute, the EU network of women in decision-making, and the Commission with the assistance of the Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men which comprise representatives of Member states, social partners at EU level and NGOs. Furthermore, PROGRESS (2007-2013) is a programme which serves support for the effective implementation for Gender Equality on a financial level.


The objective of Equality between men and women has been developed through the legislation of the EU which plays a crucial role and creates the ambitions for further development of Equality in the EU. Article 157 TFEU (ex 141 EC) has been characterised as the basis for the development of the law of the European Union on equal pay. Further development has been achieved through the seven Directives which were incorporated into one in 2006 and concerned equal treatment between men and women. In accordance with the above legislation the discrimination against women in the labour market is illegal and same work or work of equal value must be paid similarly for both genders.


In an attempt to tackle the pay gap between women and men the European Commission in 2007 decides to take action by:

  • § Ensuring better application of existing legislation.


  • § Fighting the pay gap as an integral part of Member states' employment policies.


  • § Promoting equal pay among employers, especially through social responsibility.


  • § Supporting exchange of good practices across the EU and involving the social partners.


In an attempt to provide a harmonization of professional, private and family life the introduction of the Directive 92/85EEC has upgraded the legislation of the European Union and has created the conditions for social justice and equal opportunities. The objective of this Directive is to offer protection in respect to the health and safety of pregnant workers, workers who have given birth short while ago and women who are breastfeeding. The Commission in October 2008 as an outcome of a wide public conference introduced a “reconciliation package” which included proposals for the reinforcement of the maternity leave Directive.


Furthermore, the legislation of the European Union in accordance to Directive 96/34/EEC provides the requirements on parental leave in an attempt to achieve reconciliation of work and family obligations and ensure equal treatment between men and women. The European Social Partners (UNICE, CEEP, ETUC) created a framework agreement on parental leave which on an update basis resulted the EU Commission proposing improvement on arrangements of parental leave.


A significant amendment to the legislation of the European Union has been achieved through the Directive 2006/54/EC which covers all the aspects of Equality of men and women in respect to employment and occupation. The new Directive has replaced and amended Directive75/117/EEC, Directive 76/207EEC, Directive 86/378EC and Directive 97/80EC. The provisions of the new Directive cover equality on payment, security in working conditions and treatment in access to employment.


One of the most important objectives of the European Commission in respect to equality between men and women is equal participation in decision-making. Despite the attempt which has been made and the level of the progress which has indeed been increased, the level that women are represented in the decision-making process in the most of the member states is still very low. The European Union has largely attempted to promote gender equality in decision-making such as in 1996 where the Council of Ministers formally recommended to the member states the introduction of legislative measures for a balanced participation between men and women in the decision-making process.


Additionally, the European Commission attempted the improvement of the statistics and for purposes of controlling betterment of Gender Balance, has created a broad database on Women and Men in decision-making. Decision-making in political, public, juridical, social and economical domains in 34 countries was comprehended in this database which contributed to the release, by the European Commission, of an annual expert report on the analysis of the trends. The European Commission through the establishment of this database aimed to monitor the numbers of men and women in key decision-making positions. The positions which are covered under the particular database are not only positions in respect to politics but there is further concern to the allocation of positions in respect to significant areas of the economy.


The current economic crisis which seriously affects employment in the European Union is considered to be a crucial issue for the European Commission. The European Employment Strategy as a means for the endeavours of creation and betterment of a wide range of jobs in addition to actions for financial support such as the European Social Fund and the PROGRESS programme indicate the efforts of the European Commission to achieve advancement in employment within the Union.


The main aim of the introduction of the European Employment Strategy is to encourage the dialogue between the Member states for purposes of cooperation where the proposal of several suggestions will lead to the advancement of jobs in every member state and in the Union in general. Based on official documents and the annual joint employment report, the dialogue which takes place between the Member states and the European Institutions aims to achieve the objective of advancement in the employment area.


The significance of the Employment Committee which consists on representatives of the Member states is particularly important for the operation of the European Employment Strategy. The Committee prepares, on annual basis, several issues which are discussed in the Council and also arrange meetings on a regular basis with the Social Partners of the EU for discussions of mutual interest.


One of the four fundamental freedoms which are included in the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union under articles 45 and 46 is the free movement of workers within the Union. Under Regulation 1612/68 a worker is allowed access to the same jobs, tax and social advantages as if he were a national of the host Country. Member states are justified in withholding social and financial assistance during the first three months of the worker’s residence. Further, under article 2(2) Directive 2004/38 the worker’s family and dependents have the right to move with the worker. The Free movement of workers provides the citizens of the Union with more opportunities for employment and encourages the advancement of the employment throughout the whole Union.






Undoubtedly, the issues of employment and equal opportunities within the European Union concerns particularly people with disabilities. Despite the fact that EU policies have a great impact in respect to issues concerning people with disabilities, it is in fact for the member states to deal such issues in accordance to their own policies.  The EU through particular actions aims equality and accessibility of disabled persons to the same rights of non disabled persons.


Some key figures for disability are provided in the official website of the EU policies. (http://ec.europa.eu/policies/employment_social_rights_en.htm)


  • ·          “44.6 million persons aged between 16 and 64 report a long standing health problem or disability”.


  • ·           “50% of disabled persons are employed compared to 68% of non disabled”.


  • ·          “63% persons reporting con. Restrictions are in education versus 83% persons reporting no restriction”.


  • ·          “Among people with higher education 48% reporting con. restrictions are in employment versus 85% reporting no restrictions".


The European Community as a signatory to the UN convention is required to promote Human Rights through legislation, measures, policies and programmes. The endeavours of advancement in respect to the crucial issue of people with disabilities have been strengthened with the European Disability Strategy 2003-2010 which consists of four particular pillars; EU anti-discrimination legislation and measures; mainstreaming of disability issues; Accessibility; and Mobilising stakeholders through dialogue.


During 2004-2007 the priorities of the European Union which have been set, included accessibility in employment, education, technology and the public built environment. It further aimed the encouragement in activities and accessibility to quality, goods and services.

In 2007, the Commission Communication included two areas in respect to disabled people. The first area concerned measures for inclusive participation through accessibility and the second considered measures for full enjoyment of fundamental rights.


The crucial issue of transportation in respect to people with disabilities and reduced mobility has been attempted to be tackled with legislation and legislative proposals. Accordingly, the Council Resolution 2008 in respect to the issue of people with disabilities aimed to combat discrimination of disabled people, enforce enjoyment of human rights and particularly the rights of disabled people as passengers. Directive 2000/78 considers equal treatment and training on grounds of religion or belief, age, disability or sexual orientation. According to Article 5 of Directive 2000/78/EC employers are under the obligation to supply sufficient accommodation to disabled persons. Additionally, Regulation 1107/2006 which concerns issues of transportation of disabled people when travelling by air and Regulation 1371/2007 in respect to railway transportation for disabled people, indicate the efforts through legislative measures to secure and ensure equal opportunities amongst the citizens of the Union.


The introduction of the new European Disability strategy 2010-2020 based on both internal and external preparations includes preparatory study and public online questionnaire respectively. The new plan prioritised the analysis of; The UN Convention as to identify the obligations of the Community and the member states; The Council of Europe Action plan in respect to the actions which are currently taking place in the member states; and finally evaluate the current Disability action plan.


The improvement which has been achieved in respect to the crucial issues of equality between men and women, disabled and non-disabled persons and the attempt to tackle discrimination in every aspect of everyday life and particularly in respect to employment reflects the endeavours of the Union to improve the level of life of all the citizens and protect minorities. The European Union continues the efforts to achieve the protection of the fundamental Human Rights of all the citizens in the maximum level. It is through equality that the employment within the Union is aimed to be advanced.






1.) Sylvia Walby (2004) The European Union and Gender Equality: Emergent Varieties of Gender Regime, Social Politics, Volume 11 Number 1Oxford University Press 

2.) Jennifer Rankin (2009) So what did the EU ever do for gender equality?














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