New EU Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Social Services
On 10th July, the European Commission established a new EU Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Social Services. This new committee will provide a formal space for the sector's main EU social partners - the Federation of European Social Employers, the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) and others - to discuss and negotiate cross-European solutions to the sector's challenges and opportunities. It marks the conclusion of 15 years of active work by the European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) to set-up such a structure and enable social services to be strongly represented within European Social Dialogue - including those from the Social Economy.
European Social Dialogue brings together both employers and trade unions - at a cross-sectoral and sectoral level - to discuss, consult, negotiate, and take joint action on various issues of interest to the European Union, as well as to the sectors involved. The EU Treaties give recognised social partners a formal role in the development of employment and social policies, beyond that available to civil society organisations. For instance, Agreements made by recognised EU Social Partners can also be proposed to the Council for implementation as a Directive; as was the case in the Agreement on the protection of health workers from injuries and infections caused by medical sharps (Council Directive 2010/32/EU).
The Social Services sector employs over 9 million workers in the EU, representing almost 5% of the total EU workforce. It is also one of Europe's fastest-growing sectors with the number of employees in the sector increasing by 15.5% in 10 years, double the average rate for the entire EU workforce. The sector is also experiencing significant staff shortages and major difficulties in recruiting and retaining qualified staff. Despite the size of the sector and the challenges it faces, the social services sector has not had a recognised EU Committee dedicated to the specific needs of the sector, primarily due to the absence of a representative European employers’ structure for not-for-profit social services.
15 years ago, EASPD and other partners worked towards the creation of a European employers' structure for the sector, which ultimately led to the creation of the Federation of European Social Employers (Social Employers) in 2017. In 2021, the Social Employers and EPSU, later joined by the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), went on to make an official request for a new Committee focusing on social services.
On 10th July 2023, the European Commission established this new Committee, now giving a formal role to the social services sector's EU social partners. It is also the first new Committee to be created in over a decade.
For Jim Crowe, EASPD President, "this announcement marks the conclusion of a 15-year campaign by EASPD - and others- to ensure a stronger voice for social services at EU level through formal social dialogue structures. EASPD strongly welcomes this decision by the European Commission, and the leadership shown by European Commissioner for Jobs & Social Rights, Nicholas Schmit. This is a big step forward for the sector at a European level, as well as at national and local levels".
Having worked on the campaign for many years, Thomas Bignal, EASPD Head of Policy, added that "the creation of an EU Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Social Services is the successful conclusion of EASPD's campaign – but it is the very beginning of establishing concrete solutions to the sector's labour difficulties at EU level. We invite the newly established Committee to focus first and foremost on the ability to attract, recruit and retain qualified staff throughout Europe. This is a crucial step to be able to achieve the sector's ambitions to provide quality person-centred and community-based support to those who need it."
For more information about the creation of the new EU sectoral committee for social dialogue, please see the joint press release by the Social Employers and EPSU.
For more information, please contact:
Thomas Bignal, Head of Policy
Note to editors:
The European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit European umbrella organisation, established in 1996, and currently representing over 20,000 social and health services for persons with disabilities. EASPD advocates effective and high-quality disability-related services in the field of education, employment and individualised support, in line with the UN CRPD principles, which could bring benefits not only to persons with disabilities, but to society as a whole.