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Speech: The employment potential of care services

European Commission - SPEECH/13/81   30/01/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

László ANDOR

European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

The employment potential of care services

Conference on "employment potential of personal and household services"

Brussels, 30 January 2013

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A warm welcome to you all.

Personal and household services are an important sector from a European perspective and — above all — for their job creation potential.

The current employment and social situation means we must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to boost employment.

Other longer-term factors — such as longer life expectancy, combined with lower fertility and the retirement of the baby-boom generation — will have a far-reaching impact on society’s outlook and the economy over the next 30 years.

It is becoming increasingly unrealistic to expect families to provide the bulk of long-term care for elderly people, as we tend to do today.

First, the number of people 65 and over will almost double over the next 50 years in Europe, rising from 87.5 million in 2010 to 152.6 million in 2060.

The number of people in the 80-and-over age group who are likely to need long-term care will triple over the next two decades.

Even in the best-case scenario, the number of people who will develop age-related disabilities and will need special care is likely to double.

Secondly, the pool of potential carers will shrink substantially over the next few decades, as the working-age population dwindles and the employment rate of women increases.

We should remember that women make up a large majority of carers in the EU, and that an excessive workload due to professional or family obligations can substantially reduce their personal satisfaction.

My third point concerns the labour-market integration of women aged 55 to 64 who perform substantial informal caring.

Women who provide unpaid regular long-term care tend to remain outside the labour market. This entails a big loss to the economy and to society.

The Europe 2020 employment target will not be met if women in the 55-to-64 age group continue to be underemployed and if older dependents continue to lack access to formal care services.

Lastly, if we rely primarily on informal care, we also exclude possibilities for productivity growth and quality improvements in care delivery.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The EU’s main role is to support the Member States in their efforts to tackle these challenges.

The Commission’s Employment Package published last April launched a consultation on “exploiting the potential of the personal and household services” to identify responses to the issues of:

  1. achieving a better work-life balance by externalising more daily tasks performed at home, as well as caring for children and the elderly;

  2. creating jobs for the relatively low-skilled, in particular in housework services;

  3. improving the quality of care.

The following main findings of this consultation will be developed at this conference:

  1. There is a lack of a clear-cut definition of personal and household services, since the concept covers a wide range of services with major specificities. Services such as childcare and long-term care are social services of general interest, and this needs to be taken into account. There is also a need for accurate statistics [session 1];

  2. The relevance of demographic change to the sector and increased demand for such services, which puts pressure on efforts to achieve an optimal work-life balance [session 2];

  3. The need for public intervention to get the high percentage of undeclared workers in the sector into formal work. The role of the authorities in ensuring access for disadvantaged users should also be addressed [session 3].

  4. The impact of new technologies on the sector [session 4].

  5. Lastly, we need to guarantee decent working conditions in the sector [session 5]. The importance of social dialogue needs stressing here.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The employment potential of care services is not confined to the present.

What is needed is a far-sighted view of population ageing in Europe over the coming decades.

The 2012 Ageing Report found that spending on healthcare and long-term care is expected to increase by about 30% by 2060.

If we want to support the supply of personal and household services we will need to pay a particular attention to both costs and quality.

Formal employment in personal and household services is relatively costly, and we see therefore that Member States develop schemes to support the supply of personal and household services — for instance, Spain reduces the social security contribution payable by households employing domestic personnel. Others support demand for such services — for instance, Belgium’s service voucher system. It is important to evaluate the earn-back effects of these investments as the real cost seems low.

Improving professional standards: the quality of services — in particular care for children and the elderly — is crucial.

Further improvements in the efficiency and quality of social and care services should be seen as an investment in growth — in inclusive, smart and sustainable growth.

This will be addressed in the Social Investment Package which the Commission will present in February. It will stress the need for the Member States to increase the focus of their social spending on social investment into human capital and social cohesion.

We will also step up our efforts to combat undeclared work, which is very relevant for the sector we are discussing today.

Later this year, the Commission will propose establishing an EU platform on undeclared work.

It will bring together the Member States' enforcement bodies and other stakeholders to improve cooperation by sharing information and best practice with a view to a more effective and coherent approach to the fight against undeclared work.

Also from the funding side, the EU is supporting the development of the sector. The European Social Fund also has a major role to play here.

It can be used to help families take care of children and the elderly, and to promote employment and help reconcile work and private life.

It can support investment in active and healthy ageing. Through its social inclusion objective, the Social Fund can also improve access to affordable, sustainable, high-quality services — including health care and social services of general interest.

Lastly, the Fund can cofinance the training of care professionals.

One example of a European Social Fund project worth quoting is the Part-time training in Hamburg scheme. It has 648 participants, and supports young parents and carers to balance their commitments at home with training that can allow them to improve their employability and fulfil their potential.

Another interesting project financed by the Fund is the Swedish Workplace learning in focus scheme. This provides in-service training for healthcare staff to develop their skills and improve quality assurance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Sharing good practice, analysis and experience will certainly help remedy shortcomings in this area and respond to future needs that population change will bring.

The European Commission will therefore continue these exchanges and soon send a questionnaire to both the Employment and the Social Protection Committees on this issue.

Formal personal and household services are important because they help:

  1. creating new job opportunities, in particular for the relatively low-skilled;

  2. finding solutions for persons in need of personal care;

  3. achieving a better work-life balance by calling on service-providers to do more daily tasks performed at home, including caring for children and the elderly;

  4. fighting black labour;

  5. ensuring quality services and good working conditions,

I wish you a very successful conference and I look forward to hearing the results of your discussions.

Thank you.


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