High-level conference at the European Commission.

IF/IW – 04/2019

In a changing world of work, it is not only people that should be expected to adjust and adapt to change. Policy makers must also adapt their regulatory frameworks and education systems to fit the new conditions in society. This was the message from Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen as she opened the high-level conference on ‘The Future of Work’ in Brussels on 9 April.


Around 500 participants, including many high-ranking persons from the Member States and the EU institutions, attended the European Commission’s conference. The changes in the world of work and their impact on workers, businesses, society and social security systems were debated in six parallel sessions. One of the sessions was devoted to modernising welfare systems and ensuring their sustainability.

German and European voices

The German Social Insurance was also invited to contribute its point of view to the discussion. Ilka Wölfle, Director of the European Representation of the German Social Insurance, stressed that ‘in order to finance social security on a sustainable basis, we need social protection to be obligatory for all workers. In order to maintain a large solidarity-based community and to finance the systems over the long term, including for future generations, all workers, whether employed or self-employed, must be included in the social security systems. But they must also fulfil their obligation to pay contributions.’

Dr Rolf Schmachtenberg, State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, underlined the importance of adequate social security for all workers and referred to the current discussion on reform which would see the mandatory inclusion of self-employed workers in the old-age pension system.

In his keynote speech, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker once again stressed the importance and necessity of the initiatives launched by the Commission. However, he also emphasised that the Commission has no plans to harmonise social security systems and referred to the current reform of the rules for coordinating social security systems. The main concern here was to ensure citizens working across borders have adequate rights in order to avoid the impression that they were ‘second-class citizens".

Under current Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, social issues have been given high priority at European level. Many initiatives have been launched to benefit workers, businesses, society and the economy. Even after the European elections and the inauguration of the new European Commission, social issues such as demographic change, changes in the world of work and access to social protection for all workers are likely to remain on the European policy agenda.


The European Pillar of Social Rights announced in 2017 by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States was an initiative close to the heart of incumbent Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and is thus one of his greatest achievements. Implementing the 20 principles and rights set out in the Pillar to support well-functioning and fair labour markets and social systems is a shared responsibility of the Member States, EU institutions, social partners and other stakeholders. The European Commission has subsequently presented a number of European initiatives to be implemented. These include better work-life balance for parents and carers, access to social protection for all workers, the establishment of a European Labour Authority, and transparent and reliable working conditions in the EU.

The European Commission’s aim of the ‘Future of Work’ conference was to deepen the debate on the future world of work and the challenges that have to be overcome.