Final conference of the SOWELL project: employment relations, labour market and social actors in the care services

(12 December 2022) Last week, EPSU and the Social Employers hosted the final conference of the SOWELL project in Brussels. The project, which has 7 partners, looks at looks at the care services sector from an employment relations perspective. It focuses on working conditions and employment relations institutions in the sector on the one hand, and on trade unions and employer associations’ strategies on the other.

The project examined in particular the long-term care sector and early childhood education and care sector. These two sectors are of extra relevance today, as Europe’s health ministers are in Brussels and will adopt two Council Recommendations included in the European Care Strategy, one on long-term care and one early childhood education and care.

In the first panel, the researchers from the University of Milan and University of Macerata presented the main findings from the research from a comparative perspective. Amongst other things, the key findings of the project show that national strategies to increase service coverage and service quality in the care sector usually comes at the expense of working conditions, which in the long-term does not improve service quality. It also found that privatisation of care services is a key factor in worsening working conditions. The final report will be published in the new year.

Participants then heard seven case studies from the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Italy, Czech Republic and Hungary. The case studies were first presented by the researchers, and followed by insights from social partner discussants.

The final panel looked at how social partners at national and EU level can improve employment and working conditions in ECEC and LTC services in the EU. The panel was made up of Kathrin Riedler from the European Commission, DG EMPL, Eileen Rocard, from the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the OECD, Lorenzo Munar, a Project Manager at EU–OSHA, Sylvain Renouvel, director of the Social Employers, and Tuscany Bell, policy coordinator for social services and youth at EPSU.

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