EC Social Economy Action Plan – what’s in it for social care services?

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(13 December 2021) The EC issued today a Social Economy Action Plan to promote the social economy in Europe.

EPSU had hoped that the Commission would take the opportunity to clarify the concept of ‘social economy’,  in order to strengthen the primacy of non-profit, social/societal objectives, but this is not the case.  This is problematic especially in the social care sector, where the Commission identifies in the Action Plan a clear role for social economy in the upcoming 2022 EU care strategy.    

In the accompanying staff working paper to the Action Plan the Commission says that employment conditions of workers in the social economy are generally good,  citing ‘anecdotal’  case studies as evidence of this.   The Action Plan on the other hand notes that  many care workers have  poor employment  conditions.   So, which is it?   Clearly the Action Plan is correct -  many care workers do have poor employment conditions.   This will not be solved simply by promoting the social economy.    

There is little in the Action Plan on the importance of workers’ rights and collective bargaining, both of which are fundamental to improving the conditions of all workers.   Nor is there any reference to the need for long-term, secure public funding to ensure good quality social care services,  guaranteed to all people in need.  Such funding is indispensable, however care services are provided.    If the social economy is to play a bigger role in the provision of social care, then the policy and financial frameworks for social care must be in place.

Next year the Commission will develop a Recommendation on the Social Economy.  EPSU will work with the ETUC to ensure clear frameworks for the social economy, including sectoral social dialogue and collective bargaining.