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States Parties to the European Social Charter still struggle with problems related to social rights discrimination

Strasbourg, France 24/03/2021
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States Parties to the European Social Charter still struggle with problems related to social rights discrimination

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) today published its Conclusions 2020 in respect of 33 States* on the articles of the Charter relating to “employment, training and equal opportunities”. The Republic of Moldova and Norway did not submit a report and therefore the Committee did not adopt any conclusions in respect of these countries.

The rights under review were: the right to work; the rights to vocational guidance and training; the right of persons with disabilities to independence, social integration and participation in the life of the community; the right to engage in a gainful occupation in the territory of other Parties; the right to equal opportunities between women and men; the right to protection in cases of termination of employment; and the right of workers to the protection of their claims in the event of the insolvency of their employer.

In the framework of the reporting procedure, the Committee adopted 349 conclusions, including 152 conclusions of non-conformity and 97 conclusions of conformity with the Charter. In 100 cases, the Committee was unable to assess the situation due to insufficient information ("deferrals").

The Committee emphasised that the prevalence of poverty amongst people with disabilities is an important indicator of the success or failure of state efforts to ensure their right to enjoy independence, social integration and participation in the life of the community.

The duty of states to take measures to promote the full social integration and participation of persons with disabilities in the life of the community is strongly linked to measures directed towards the amelioration and eradication of poverty amongst them.

The Committee also identified several recurrent shortcomings in terms of countries’ efforts to ensure equal enjoyment of labour rights for all. It highlighted problems such as insufficient protection against discrimination in employment, a failure of some states to guarantee equal rights to men and women - in particular as regards equal pay. The Committee also flagged a lack of legislation providing for a shift in the burden of proof in gender pay discrimination cases.

The Committee has also found situations where states have failed to fulfil their positive obligations to prevent forced labour and labour exploitation, to protect victims, to effectively investigate the offences committed, and to punish those responsible for forced labour offences.

Another issue identified by the Committee, particularly relevant in the current pandemic situation, was the luck in certain countries of special measures for the retraining and reintegration of long-term unemployed persons. In some cases, the efforts to combat unemployment and encourage job creation remain inadequate.

Nevertheless, the Committee welcomes several positive developments, such as the introduction of legislation and specific measures in respect of persons with disabilities, adoption of anti-discrimination legislation in certain countries, also in relation to equal pay. Although it remains problematic, certain countries have introduced in their legislation the shift in the burden of proof in discrimination cases.

Furthermore, the Committee made public its Findings 2020 in respect of Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal concerning follow-up to decisions (in the framework of collective complaints).

* Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, the Netherlands, the Netherlands in respect of Curacao, the Netherlands in respect of Sint Maarten, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.