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Europe saw two decades of improvement in working conditions in a multitude of areas prior to COVID-19. However, progress in a number of areas, such as gender pay gaps, gender segregation in labour markets, psychosocial risks, and work intensity, were fragile and advancements over 20 years now risk being diluted in less than 20 months.
While 2020 may come to be seen as the year platform work gathered pace and started to go mainstream – thanks in large part to COVID-19 containment measures sparking an increase in food and grocery delivery – 2021 could be the year that regulation of platform work is set in motion.
Eurofound’s Living, working and COVID-19 online survey aims to capture the far-reaching implications of the pandemic for the way people live and work across Europe. Two rounds of the online survey have been carried out to date. The third round is launched today, 15 February, and will be open until 29 March 2021.
Eurofound has published updated monthly comparable data, converted to euro and standardised across 12 months, for 21 EU Member States and the United Kingdom for 2021
The employment toll of COVID-19 has been stark in Europe, and it could have been even greater had it not been for the adoption of unprecedented assistance measures in all Member States, supported by the European Union. But have these policies benefited different groups in the labour market equally, or have they cemented existing inequalities in access to support?
Nominal statutory minimum wages in most Member States and the UK continued to rise in 2021. With inflation being low, this has resulted in real increases for those minimum wage workers who have managed to retain their jobs and the same working hours.
The employment fallout of COVID-19 has been a story of two types of service work. Office-based knowledge workers have largely kept their jobs and incomes while working from home; whereas client-facing service workers have borne the brunt of the lockdowns and the steep declines in demand for in-person services in restaurants, hotels, leisure and the arts.
Healthcare providers have been overwhelmed by the demand for COVID-19-related care. Medical appointments and treatments for other conditions have often been delayed, potentially leading to escalating health problems and greater future care needs among those who have missed out. If the pandemic leads to an economic crash, this rise in unmet medical needs could spiral.
In the most successful businesses, managers were found to facilitate employees to work independently rather than to focus on controlling whether they carried out their tasks. Closely monitoring employee behaviour might indeed ensure that workers do their job but is unlikely to motivate them to go beyond their job description.
Standard employment is not simply being replaced by non-standard work; employment is becoming more diverse, and policy must accordingly become more tailored.
Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions) is a tripartite EU body, whose mission is to provide knowledge to assist in the development of better social, employment and work-related policies.