Federal Minister Heil and Federal Minister Giffey thanked the ministers of the EU Member States, the European Commission and the European Parliament for the excellent cooperation in the framework of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the start of the meeting. Progress had been made, they said, which was also the result of good teamwork towards joint, better solutions for EU citizens. Both said they were satisfied with what had been achieved. They promised the trio partners Portugal and Slovenia their full support for the coming months to advance other joint projects to strengthen a “social Europe” that promotes gender equality.
The meeting began with a debate on how to better protect the growing number of people who make a living on online platforms such as Uber and Lieferando. Digital business facilitates innovation, but the rights of platform workers must not be ignored. The pandemic has given the internet economy a further boost and exposed the often precarious employment conditions of platform workers. The discussion showed that EU member states are facing very similar issues and challenges. It also underscored the often cross-border dimension of the digital economy.
Federal Minister Hubertus Heil made the following statement:
National solutions alone are not sufficient because many platforms operate across borders. We therefore also need European solutions. I am glad that the Commission will make proposals on this issue next year. The question is whether we will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to set our very own, self-determined European course with regard to digital technologies. I believe we need a European vision of how we can transfer the principles of the social market economy to the online platforms in particular and the digital economy in general! Europe should be a world leader not only from a technological point of view, but also from a social point of view.
The employment ministers also discussed the Commission's proposal for a directive on adequate minimum wages in the EU.
Federal Minister Hubertus Heil summarized:
Despite all our different opinions on the details, we in Europe must ensure that all people can live from their work in dignity. Now is the perfect time to be having this debate: Corona has shown us all how valuable the work of the countless frontline workers is, who do a lot but often earn very little. We need adequate minimum wages not only for reasons of fairness, but also economic reasons. Collective bargaining coverage and the social partnership are always the best way to achieve fair wages and good employment conditions. We should therefore also strengthen them. But if these instruments are not strong enough, then we need minimum wages to set a limit!
In the afternoon, Federal Minister Franziska Giffey chaired the discussion focussing on gender equality. The ministers discussed the strategy “A Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025” presented by the Commission. Minister Giffey emphasised the importance of gender equality in labour market participation as well as equal distribution of paid work and unpaid care work between women and men:
Equal distribution of unpaid care work and paid employment between women and men is key to gender equality - and especially important as we are grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
During the debate, a large majority of Member ssates spoke in favour of equal distribution of paid work and unpaid care work. Many Member States underlined in particular the approach and goals of the Commission's Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, which aims to ensure that women and men are actually free to make their own life choices.
Member States reported a wide range of approaches to improving equal opportunities in the labour market, ranging from improved care infrastructure, to approaches that promote partnership in care work, to measures to reduce the gender pay gap.
Minister Giffey was pleased that a majority of Member States came together in favour of the Council conclusions “Tackling the Gender Pay Gap: Valuation and Distribution of Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work” during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union:
At the end of our presidency, we can chalk up an important success in this field: In the Council we unanimously adopted conclusions on the gender pay gap. This shows that Europe is moving forward together.
The conclusions “Tackling the Gender Pay Gap: Valuation and Distribution of Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work” show clearly that in Europe we need to see that paid work and unpaid care work are shared on an equal basis.
For Federal Minister Giffey there is no doubt:
We can only achieve gender equality if we all work together: women – and men.
Other topics on the agenda included human rights and decent work in global supply chains, the negotiations on the revision of the directive on protection against carcinogens in the workplace, the equal treatment directive, the European Commission's LGBTIQ strategy, the meeting of EU equality ministers and a joint declaration by the Member States on support for families in the coronavirus pandemic.
To conclude, Portugal presented its programme for its upcoming Presidency in the first half of 2021.