Informal Meeting of Ministers for Employment and Social Policy, SAS and Nice

Informal Meeting of Ministers for Employment and Social Policy (EPSCO) – Bratislava, 14- 15 July2016 was supported by contributions from the Centre for social and Psychological Sciences of SAS.

The high-level two-day meeting of EU Member States’ ministers responsible for employment and social policy (EPSCO), titled "Facing the Social and Technological Challenges in the World of Work” focused on the three main areas: Digitalisation, Demographic changes and Migration. The meeting was held within the framework of the Slovak Presidency of the EU Council and chaired by the Slovak Minister Ján Richter. 

Director of CSPS Ms. Martina Lubyová was invited to deliver keynote speech that would guide and inform the discussions during the meeting.

CSPS also facilitated as part of the event an illustration of how new technologies are being introduced into the labour process by the means of the field visit - on the second day the ministers visited a modern, highly-automated workplace at Pečivárne Sereď I.D.C. Holding, a.s. – the largest Slovak producer of confectionery and pastries.

In the presence of Marianne Thyssen, the European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, 17 ministers and 7 state secretaries, together with international experts (representing the OECD, the ILO, Eurofound, EESC and other organisations including social partners at European level) discussed these highly topical issues of current trends towards digitalisation and automation and highlighted their potential impact on the labour market and social security systems.

The following interventions were invited for the meeting:

Opening by Mr Jan Richter, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic
Public Consultations on the European Pillar on Social Rights
Address by Ms Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills, and Labour Mobility, European Commission

Facing the Social and Technological Challenges in the World of Work – Demographic Changes, Migration and Digitalization
Keynote speech by Ms Martina Lubyová, Director, Centre for Social and Psychological Sciences, Slovak Academy of Sciences

The Future of Work: Work and Society – Challenges in the Fields of Social Security and Ageing
Mr Heinz Koller, Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, the International Labour Organization

Digital Economy and Digital Workplaces: Reconfiguring the Workplace in the Digital World
Mr Thorben Albrecht, Permanent State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Germany

Field visit: I.D.C. Holding, a.s., Plant Pečivárne Sereď
Study on Digitalization and its Impact on Labour Market from the Perspective of Employers in the Industry
Ms Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink, President of European Employers´ Organization Representing the Interests of the Metal, Engineering and Technology-based Industries CEEMET), Uwe Combuechen, Director General of CEEMET
Migration of Highly Skilled Workers
Mr Jean-Christophe Dumont, Head of DEELSA Migration Unit, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
EESC Opinion on “The impact of Technological Developments on the Social Security System and Labour Law”
Mr Denis Meynent, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee
The Future of European Work in a Globalised Context – Types of Work Relationships (fresh data from European Jobs Monitor)
Mr Juan Menéndez-Valdés, Director of European Foundation for Living and Working Conditions
Closing remarks by Ms Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills, and Labour Mobility, European Commission
Wrap-up of the working session and formal closure of the 
Informal EPSCO Meeting by Mr Jan Richter, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic

Main conclusions and recommendations included the following findings (Conclusions by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of SR):
- Digitalisation is one of the key drivers behind economic and social change. Demographic shifts, globalisation and new technologies are changing the nature of work, jobs and careers;
- Digitalisation and automation are no longer a far-off prospect, but already exist and are present in real time. There is a need to analyse the impact of technological innovation processes on labour relations, working conditions, social insurance systems, learning processes and qualifications;
- Technological developments have two significant impacts: they eliminate certain jobs by replacing human work with work of robots and they change qualification requirements placed on workers in many professions or create new professions;
- Digitalisation and automation of work significantly affect both businesses and employees, occupations, as well as required skills. This includes the creation of jobs as well as predictions of job losses in the short term. It is necessary to prepare for this development both at the European and national levels;
- The digital revolution brings both great opportunities and certain risks. Digitalisation triggers the creation of new production processes, work organisation, new products and services. Many tasks and jobs will disappear or substantially change. Automation and robotisation will also have some negative impacts on the world of labour: 12% of jobs are at a high risk of automation. The aim of the ministerial exchange of opinions was to assess and predict how to increase the EU global attractiveness and better use the workforce potential;

- Demographic changes, ageing of population and migration will impact the labour market and social insurance systems in several areas, such as work force availability, the need to learn new skills or preservation of social standards across Europe, including sustainability of pension schemes. New employment relations require higher flexibility, but social protection cannot be sacrificed;
- The ministers agreed on a need to protect citizens and define what skills and professions will not be needed in the future to adapt to the current economy and the trends of Industry 4.0. Workers with a lower level of education and skills are at the highest risk of displacement and job loss. It is important to increase investments into skills, promoting life-long learning (LLL), training, re-skilling and up-skilling, with a special focus on scaling up digital and ICT skills for all. ”New Skills Agenda for Europe“ will have significant role in this process;
- There is a need to develop social welfare models adapted to cover more flexibly the new forms of employment, such as crowdsourcing, zero- hours and on-demand contracts, online platforms and new forms of self-employment; and consider the labour law implications as well;
- An indispensable role in this process will be played by social partners, employers and employee representatives, who still have a key role in labour environment;
- Digital technologies generate new opportunities and productivity growth. More data, analysis and statistics on the extent and varieties of these developments are needed at EU level to predict the long-term prospects.

The ministers and state secretaries agreed that the changing nature of work and employment relationships should lead to more effective EU employment policy and efficient use of the EU funds for training and LLL. The challenge for the EU is to encourage innovation, technological development and creativity, as well as the transition to the new economic reality in which digitalisation constitutes a driving force.

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