Published on 18th June 2021
The economic impact of policies and measures adopted to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus was unprecedented, with the sharpest GDP decrease across EU countries occurring in the second quarter of 2020 with a decline of 11.2%. The private employment services industry has been instrumental in supporting sectoral shifts and supporting organisations to respond to this economic shock.
As Europe slowly starts to recover from the crisis, the private employment services industry wants to take the opportunity to look beyond and to use this moment to make labour markets more agile and inclusive. The World Employment Confederation-Europe calls for European and national policies in the coming years to focus on recovery, reform and resilience.
Recovery will come from transitions to new economies. With millions of jobs displaced and some sectors clearly declining due to the green and digital transitions, transitioning people to new opportunities will be essential. Skills policies such as the EU Skills Agenda or initiatives like the individual learning accounts are essential to make those transitions successful. The private employment services sector has long-lasting experience in enabling labour market transitions. The bipartite training funds in the agency work sector and the guidance services provided by the career management industry have proven effective in securing new opportunities to workers at risk of losing their jobs.
But getting people back at work will not be sufficient. The crisis has made even more apparent that those most vulnerable are the most affected. Reform of social protection schemes in Europe is needed in order to adapt them to the increasingly heterogenous forms of organising work, ensuring that people in diverse forms of work have access to and are adequately protected. Through a series of innovative practices, the private employment services industry has already worked to that goal. The EU’s newly adopted targets at the Porto Summit, the European Semester process and the Next Generation EU Recovery and Resilience Facility are all instruments that can be further used to increase social rights and labour market participation.
Beyond reform, the crisis is really an opportunity to have a long-term, sustainable approach to labour markets. For the private employment services industry, labour markets can only show resilience if we learn to manage risks. Here also, the sector can be a key partner, helping companies to operate in the new normal through risk management, tackling unemployment risks in collaboration with public employment services and providing responsible intermediation. The agency work sector is a well-regulated industry thanks to the European Agency Work Directive and better implementation and enforcement of its principles are needed. National plans and programmes adapted under EU Recovery and Resilience Facility should involve all labour market actors. The Career Management industry for instance can play a strong role in fostering anticipation and preparing individuals to actively think about their work-life journey in a long-term perspective.
The World Employment Confederaion-Europe and its members will engage with EU and national policymakers to put these recommendations into action.