8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
The European Social Charter, the human rights treaty on social and economic rights, guarantees the right to work with no discrimination (Article 1), the right to just conditions of work (Article 2), the right to safe and healthy working conditions (Article 3) and the right to a fair remuneration (Article 4), as well as the freedom to organise (Article 5) and the right to bargain collectively (Article 6).
To be considered fair within the meaning of Article 4§1 of the Charter, the minimum or lowest net remuneration or wage paid in the labour market must not fall below 60% of the net average wage. When the net minimum wage is between 50 and 60% of the net average wage, it is for the state to establish whether this wage is sufficient to ensure a decent standard of living. However, a net wage which is less than 50% of the net national average wage will be deemed to be unfair and therefore the situation of the State Party concerned will not be in conformity with Article 4§1 of the Charter. Under Article 7§5 of the Charter, domestic law must provide for the right of young workers to a fair wage and of apprentices appropriate allowances. The “fair” or “appropriate” character of the wage is assessed by comparing young workers’ remuneration with the starting wage or minimum wage paid to adults (aged 18 or above).
The European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR) monitors the implementation of the Charter, not only in law, but also in practice. The Committee examined the situation with regard to the above mentioned rights in its Conclusions 2018.
Under Article 1§2 of the Charter, forced labour in all its forms must be prohibited. States Parties must adopt legal provisions to combat forced labour including within the family and protect domestic workers, as well as take measures to implement them. The ECSR examined the situation and measures taken by States Parties with regard to the implementation of Article 1§2 of the Charter in its Conclusions 2020 (to be published in March 2021).
With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of Article 3 of the Charter which guarantees the right to safe and healthy working conditions, States Parties undertake to promote workplace safety and ensure the protection of all workers, including those in precarious employment. The ECSR examined the situation and measures taken by States Parties with regard to the right to safe and healthy working conditions in its Conclusions 2017.
Article 15§2 of the Charter requires States Parties to promote an equal and effective access to employment on the open labour market for persons with disabilities. Regarding work conditions, there must be obligations on the employer to take steps in accordance with the requirement of reasonable accommodation to ensure effective access to employment and to keep in employment persons with disabilities. The ECSR examined the situation and measures taken by States Parties with regard to Article 15§2 in its Conclusions 2020 (to be published in March 2021).
The ECSR by its decision of 23 of March 2017 on the merits of the complaint Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) v. Greece (No. 111/2014) concluded that new legislation enacted as part of the austerity measures adopted in Greece during the economic and financial crisis affects workers’ rights in a manner that is contrary to the Charter and found violations of Article 1 (the right to work), Article 2 (the right to just conditions of work), Article 4 (the right to a fair remuneration) and Article 7 (the right of children and young persons to protection) of the 1961 Charter, as well as Article 3 of the 1988 Additional Protocol (the right to take part in the determination and improvement of the working conditions and working environment).
In its decision of 9 September 2010 on the merits of the complaint Confederazione Generale Sindacale (CGS) v. Italy (No. 144/2017), having regard to the situation of public education staff not registered in specific reserve lists (known as “eligibility ranking lists to be drawn upon exhaustion” - ERE lists) and recruited under successive contracts with interruptions for an overall length of more than 36 months, the ECSR considered that that there has been a disproportionate interference with their rights to earn their living in an occupation freely entered upon, on account of : (i) the absence of effective preventive and remedial safeguards against abuse arising from the undue recourse to fixed-term contracts, combined with (ii) the legal uncertainty, resulting from the repeated changes to legislation and case-law and (iii) the restricted chances of obtaining indefinite duration contracts regardless of actual competences and working experience. The Committee therefore held that there has been a violation of Article 1§2 of the Charter.
The Committee considered that an adequate balance must be struck between needs for flexibility and the rights of workers to earn their living in an occupation freely entered upon. In particular, fixed-term employment contracts should not be used to elude more stringent rules applying to indefinite duration employment contracts. To this effect, there must be adequate legal safeguards preventing abuse arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts. Furthermore, where such abuse should occur, adequate, proportionate and dissuasive remedies must be effectively available in law and in practice (§113 of the decision on the merits). It also considered that where fixed-term contracts have been successively renewed over a very long period of time they can no longer be considered to respond to exceptional, unpredictable and temporary needs, and that this indicates that there has been no adequate prevention of abuse arising from the recourse to fixed-term contracts (§117 of the decision on the merits).
HELP course on Labour Rights, developed in cooperation with the Secretariat of the European Committee on Social Rights of the Council of Europe. It has the following modules:
- Right to work and employment relationship
- Working time
- Fair remuneration and protection of wages
- Termination of employment
- Equality and non-discrimination
- Collective labour rights on all levels
- Occupational safety and health
The Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) actively promotes and contributes to attain sustainable development goals proposed under the 2030 Agenda through its three lines of action “sustainable and inclusive growth”, “integration of refugees, displaced persons and migrants” and “climate action: developing mitigation and adaptation measures”. The Bank’s contribution consists in partially financing social investment projects, in particular in favour of vulnerable population groups, in the following sectors: aid to refugees, migrants, displaced persons and other vulnerable groups; social housing for low-income persons; improving living conditions in urban and rural areas; natural and ecological disasters; protection of the environment; protection and rehabilitation of historic and cultural heritage; health; education and vocational training; administrative and judicial infrastructures; supporting MSMEs for the creation and preservation of viable jobs.
With a view to increasing the impact of its operations, the CEB has established close working relations with the United Nations family, in particular the UNDP: a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2007 and has since been renewed. The CEB and UNDP co-operate closely in the Balkans, Georgia and Turkey. Through UNDP, the CEB finances technical assistance accompanying the implementation and monitoring of projects, thus contributing to promote inclusive social and economic development in the beneficiary countries.
The Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings is a ground-breaking and comprehensive instrument which is of relevance notably to achieving target 5.2 of Goal 5, target 8.7 of Goal 8 and target 16.2 of Goal 16. While building on existing international instruments, the Convention goes beyond the minimum standards agreed upon in them and strengthens the protection afforded to victims. The Convention has a comprehensive scope of application, encompassing all forms of trafficking and taking in all persons who are victims of trafficking (women, men or children). The Convention makes particular reference to children’s vulnerability in trafficking and requires States to take special account of their need for special protection and assistance. The Convention is not restricted to Council of Europe member States; non-members States and the European Union also have the possibility of becoming Party to the Convention. The implementation of the Anti-Trafficking Convention by the State Parties is monitored by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) and the Committee of the Parties.
The Council of Europe offers member States and other stakeholders guidance and support for achieving targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2 to end human trafficking through the provision of recommendations resulting from the monitoring of the Convention by GRETA and expertise on human trafficking issues and activities, such as round-table meetings in the monitored countries. The round-table meetings are a tool for stimulating dialogue between relevant stakeholders in each country, and identifying areas where the Council of Europe can support national anti-trafficking efforts.
The Council of Europe supports the implementation of the SDGs that aim to end human trafficking by organising conferences and other events to raise awareness of the provisions of the Convention and GRETA’s recommendations. Further, in order to strengthen capacity in preventing and combating human trafficking, workshops and training seminars are organised for different professional groups.
A free online course on human trafficking has been developed by the Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals of the Council of Europe (HELP) and translated into a range of languages. In addition, information and good practice examples are collected for the promotion of the implementation of the Anti-Trafficking Convention.
The Council of Europe furthers the achievement of the trafficking-related SDGs through the financing and implementation of anti-trafficking projects and activities whose results bring along the necessary outcomes at national or regional level, in line with the SDGs 5, 8 and 16 and its associated targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2. The projects support the national authorities in preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, by addressing the legislation, policy and practice in particular fields.
The Youth Department advocates and supports the development of youth policies that take into account the difficulties encountered by many young people to secure meaningful employment opportunities, putting a particular emphasis on young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods – based on CM Recommendations (2015)3 and (2016)7 (see also Goal 1) and (2016)7 (see also Goal 3).
The Parliamentary Assembly, through its Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, has undertaken a considerable amount of work towards this goal over the past years, including through its activities building up to Resolution 1993 (2014) on Decent work for all, Resolution 2068 (2015) Towards a new European Social Model, Resolution 2158 (2017) on Fighting income inequality as a means of fostering social cohesion and economic development, Resolution 2146 (2017) Reinforcing social dialogue as an instrument for stability and decreasing social and economic inequalities, Resolution 2312 (2019) on The societal impact of the platform economy and Resolution 2345 (2020) and Recommendation 2186 (2020) on “Artificial intelligence and labour markets: friends or foes?”. The Committee is currently working on a report on the “Best interests of the child and policies to ensure a work-life balance”.
In 2019, the work of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination led to the adoption of Resolution 2257 (2019) on Discrimination in access to employment and Resolution 2258 (2019) For a disability-inclusive workforce.
In 2017, the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons work led to the adoption of Resolution 2175 (2017) and Recommendation 2109 (2017) on Migration as an opportunity for European development, urging member States to recognise the economic value of migration and migrants’ importance for national labour markets. Furthermore, in October 2019, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution 2310 (2019) on Labour migration from eastern Europe and its impact on socio-demographic processes in these countries. The Assembly called for concerted action by both sending and receiving countries to “alleviate the negative impact of labour migration on the countries of origin, while doing everything needed to preserve the positive aspects”. Measures could include upping support for families left behind in countries of origin – particularly any children – and providing clear information on the opportunities and risks for migrant workers, as well as steps to help those who wish to return home. For their part, receiving countries should do all they can to stop “unofficial” labour migration, while helping migrant workers who come officially to integrate more fully.
The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has also promoted the Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec (2016)3 on Human Rights and Business (see the Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution 2311 (2019) and Recommendation 2166 (2019)). Additionally, it recently adopted Resolution 2318 (2019) on the protection of freedom of religion or belief in the workplace.
In 2020, the report on the “Impact of labour migration on left-behind children” was adopted in the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development and is awaiting the debate in the Standing Committee in March 2021.
The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities adopted the following texts of relevance:
- RES358(2013): Integration through self-employment: promoting migrant entrepreneurship in European municipalities;
- REC343(2013): Integration through self-employment: promoting migrant entrepreneurship in European municipalities;
- RES362(2013): Migrants' access to regional labour markets;
- REC347(2013): Migrants' access to regional labour markets;
- REC(2009)262: Equality and diversity in local authority employment and service provision.
The work of the Commissioner for Human Rights relating to this goal focuses on reminding member states of the importance of upholding social rights as human rights and placing them at the epicentre of business practices. In addition, the Commissioner has raised awareness on the impact of austerity measures on quality working opportunities in particular for the youth. The Commissioner has also issued concrete recommendations to member states to address the gender pay gap, the persistence of child labour in Europe, and the need to improve protection for victims of trafficking in human beings and forced labour.
See the following Human Rights Comments of the Commissioner:
- ‘Preserving Europe's social model’
- ‘Youth human rights at risk during the crisis’
- ‘Business enterprises begin to recognise their human rights responsibilities’
- ‘Women are underpaid all over Europe’
- ‘Child labour in Europe: a persisting challenge’
- ‘Improving protection for victims of forced labour and human trafficking’
- Time to deliver on commitments to protect people on the move from human trafficking and exploitation’