Some 20 questions were answered by people in 5 languages throughout the 45 minute exchange. A vast amount of the questions asked by online participants revolved around various job sectors and how perceptions of them may have changed since the crisis.
From the livelihoods of those working in the tourism sector, to the rights of seasonal workers in food sector, to the gender pay gap and lack of salary equality for people working in the care sector. The Commissioner emphasised that a movement has started now in reevaluating the value of work – the virus has highlighted the true value and importance of the work done by essential workers that has not been sufficiently honoured across our societies in the past.
The same question came from two citizens – one in Germany and one in Italy – on whether social policy would be standardised in Europe. The Commissioner responded highlighting the action plan on the European Social Pillar that is in progress and that the Pillar of Social Rights principles will be translated into concrete policies in areas such as minimum wage and up-skilling.
Asked about the EU’s support for SMEs in the recovery, the Commissioner described SMEs as the backbone of the European economy and that support for SMEs would be vital in the recovery plan in terms of regional economies and training young people. Job opportunities for young people and the digitalisation of the workforce were also discussed, with the Commissioner emphasising the Youth Guarantee will be revamped with more sufficient resources.
Many questions were raised by online participants concerning the impact of Coronavirus on social inclusion – specifically regarding increase in homelessness since the crisis and the so-called urban poor.
The final question was about growing inequality in the EU and how the Commission could bridge the increasing gap between rich and poor, to which Commissioner Schmit reassured participants that while the Commission cannot act alone in this, we are working and reacting as quickly as possible to ensure nobody gets left behind.