First published on
26 April 2017

The reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe raises questions on how to sustain our standards of living, create more and better jobs, equip people with the right skills and create more unity within our society, in light of tomorrow's society and world of work. It does so by setting out three possible options:

  • Limiting the social dimension to free movement

Under this option, the Union would keep rules to promote cross-border movements of people in place, such as rules on social security rights of mobile citizens, on posting of workers, on cross-border health care and the recognition of diplomas. However, there would no longer be EU minimum standards on, for instance, health and safety for workers, working and rest time, or maternity and paternity leave. Europe would no longer foster opportunities for Member States to exchange best practices in the fields of education, health, culture and sports, and social and regional reconversion programmes in the Member States that are co-funded by EU money would have to be discontinued or funded nationally.

  • Those who want to do more in the social field do more

Countries sharing the euro as a single currency could do more together in the social field to preserve the strength and stability of the euro area and to avoid abrupt adjustments in the living standards of its citizens. Other interested countries could participate as well.

  • The EU27 deepen the social dimension of Europe together

While the centre of gravity for action in the social field should and would remain with national and local authorities, the EU would explore ways to further support Member State action, making full use of all instruments in its toolbox. Legislation would not only set minimum standards but, in selected areas, could fully harmonise citizens' rights across the EU, with the aim of focusing on social convergence in social outcomes.

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