Finland is using its presidency to better align
economic and social issues. As such, an Economy of Wellbeing is not a
contradiction in terms. On the basis of a sound economic policy, it is worth
investing in the sustainability of social and health polices, in short: in
people’s wellbeing. This is also necessary due to the constantly increasing
challenges facing labour markets due to digitalisation, demographic change and increased
Pillar and internal market go hand in hand
At the heart of the Economy of Wellbeing is
the European Pillar of Social Rights with its comprehensive set of social policy
recommendations. A strong, well-functioning internal market with all its
dimensions forms its basis. On 24 October 2019, the Employment, Social Policy,
Health and Consumer Affairs Council of the European Union (EPSCO) declared
itself in favour of promoting the Economy of Wellbeing.
Competencies not compromised
In its conclusions,
EPSCO stresses that the horizontal approach based on collaboration between
different policy areas is embedded in the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU
and the European Social Charter of 1961. It continues the Health in All Policies
approach from 2006. As such, there is no need for new structures – competences
and responsibilities do not require changing. The ideas inspired by the Economy
of Wellbeing could be implemented without compromising the competences of the Member
States and with full respect for the autonomy of the social partners at
national and European level. This was the key message of the Council
Motivate Member States via the European Semester
Member States are being called upon to conduct
a comprehensive assessment of policy initiatives in terms of their impact on
the wellbeing of people in their country and to develop appropriate indicators for
this assessment. Specific support measures should be put in place for the
unemployed or people at risk of losing their jobs. Adequate social protection can
be ensured through access to high-quality, affordable and sustainable services.
Health promotion and preventive measures should be strengthened, and lifelong
learning made possible. The European Semester should be used as the tool for
implanting this process.
Strategic integration of the Commission
The European Commission is invited to
develop a long-term strategy to make the European Union the most competitive
and socially inclusive, climate-neutral economic area in the world. This
includes reviewing the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work and
ensuring that concrete measures are put in place to reduce the gender pay gap.
It should develop new initiatives to address disability policies and to promote
high-quality early childhood education and care. The Commission is also being
asked to issue a communication that highlights the cross-sectoral impacts of
different policies on mental health, and link this to a Mental Health Strategy.
Steady does it ...
A Council Presidency is a ‘gentle force’.
Conclusions reached by the Council during its six-monthly rotating presidencies
are, by their very nature, formulated in a soft way. They are also not binding.
The more the European Union succeeds in sharpening its social policy
instruments – the European Pillar of Social Rights and the European Semester –
the more likely it is that gentle force will be able to develop discernible powers
of action. The new Commission, which is expected to commence its work on 1
December, will be determined to do this. It will also need a lot of patience.