European Care Strategy: pay and conditions for care workers a priority to ensure quality care

On the way to a gender-sensitive and sustainable European Care Strategy

(21 November 2022) People must be able to access high quality care when they are older, stressed several stakeholders in a debate on the European Care Strategy. This access is a key element of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The debate was organised by the the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK EUROPA), the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), the Social Employers and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB). All welcomed the proposed European Care Strategy for opening both national and European debates on how to improve care as well as what is needed for workers delivering care and for those receiving care. The proposal is accompanied by a Recommendation on Long-Term Care. This recommendation foresees that Member States have to prepare action plans to improve care.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, General Secretary, EPSU repeated his critique that Member States watering down the recommendation would be a disappointment. The Care Strategy recognises that care is a public good but it does not go far enough to stop and reverse the commercialisation of care. It is positive that the strategy recognises that the workforce is crucial. Care workers deserve decent pay and proper working conditions. Collective agreements are the way to do this. Those who receive public funds and public contracts should be obliged to have a collective agreement. For the unions, we need to build workers’ power in the workplace and in the sector.

Working conditions and finance

Gregor Tomschizek, President, Social Employers agreed with the need to improve pay and conditions to invest in continuous professional development and to strengthen the social dialogue in the sector. Renate Anderl, President, AK EUROPA joined the social partners in their demands and common work. She saw a need to improve conditions in both health and social care and create a care fund to support the development of the social protection for those who need care. An inheritance tax and tax on wealth are possibilities to finance the investments and ensure public funding in Austria.

Gender dimension of care

Vice-President of the European Parliament Evelyn Regner (Austria, S&Ds) stressed the gender dimension of care. Most care is done by women, both in the informal sector and in professional life. European measures like the Gender Pay Transparency Directive will assist to reduce the pay and pensions gap. It is still large. Better pay for the mostly woman workforce in the care sector would be a large step to reduce the pay gap. She recalled that 15 November was European (Un)-Equal Pay Day - after this date women work for free in the EU.

Human rights in care

A keynote speech was given by Bernhard Achitz, Ombudsman, Austrian Ombudsman Board. He stressed that lack of staff can never be a justification for violations of human rights. That is why it the task of the politicians to provide the resources so enough people want to work in the health and care sector. The office of the Ombudsman investigated complaints in Senecura – a subsidiary of French care multinational Orpea - after it was notified that human rights were violated.

The debate took place on Thursday, 17 November 2022 in Brussels.

Further background:

  • Find more on EPSU’s work in social services here.
  • The position paper of AK Europe on the "European Care Strategy" can be found here.
  • Find more information on the work of the Austrian Ombudsman Board here.
  • Find the Austrian Ombudsman Board’s position on the abuse of elderly in Senecura (Orpea) Salzburg here and the measures taken by Salzburg here.
  • Find more from EPSU on the problems in Orpea here.
  • Find more information on the Social Employers here.
  • The European Care Strategy and the Recommendation on Long-Term Care are available here.