To lift people out of poverty, public investment in quality education is a top priority, ETUCE says at Tripartite Social Summit


In November 2017, alongside the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the Heads of State made education their priority and launched the European Education Area. Yet, resources to deliver on this commitment are still lagging behind jeopardizing the sustainability of education systems and upward social convergence in Europe, as well as measures aimed at closing the equity and equality gaps between those who have and those who have not. The ETUCE European Director raised concerned towards EU leaders and the social partners over low public investment as many countries have not yet recovered from decade-long austerity-driven budget cuts in the public sector.

She pointed out at the severe teacher shortage in many countries due to unattractive working conditions and the push for privatization and commercialization in education, low salaries and increasing brain drain in the education sector. It is an historic chance, she said, to boost measures aimed at raising the attractiveness of the profession, aiming at sustainable employment against the trend of precarious short-term contracts that jeopardise quality education, decent working conditions including work-life balance, decent pay and pensions to make work pay, professional autonomy, academic freedom and research, as core elements of quality education. To this end, “a meaningful and effective social dialogue where social partners are valued and respected is the foundation to make a change in Europe for the better. It is the basis to address the challenges and to carry out the work together”, she said.

Two months before the European elections, the ETUCE European Director, part of the ETUC delegation, recalled the victims of the recent attacks in New Zealand and Utrecht, reminding participants that sustainable education that lasts beyond 2030 is to prepare students not only with a set of skills and competences for the labour market but for life. In times of rising nationalism, populism, xenophobia and violence young people need to learn to think critically and be open-minded. “As democratic citizens” she stated, “they, we, need to be aware of our rights and responsibilities so we can cherish diversity and mutual respect and to promote equal opportunities and social inclusion. Education is the tool to lift people out of poverty and to overcome unemployment.”

The Tripartite Social Summit took place on 20 March 2019. It gathered around a table the representatives of the cross-sectoral social partners (ETUC representing workers and BusinessEurope, CEEP and SME Europe representing European employer organisations), the Prime Minister of Romania Viorica Dăncilă, the President of the European Commission (EC) Jean-Claude Juncker, the EC Vice-President for Euro and Social Dialogue Valdis Dombrovskis and the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Dialogue Marianne Thyssen, European Council President Donald Tusk and the Ministers of Labour from Romania, Finland and Croatia. Other topics covered by this Summit focused on new forms of work and the impact of digitalization, social dialogue, free movement of workers and investments in a deeper and fairer single market.