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A social Europe and an ambitious action plan are essential in the response to the crisis

Informal video conference of Ministers for Employment and Social Policy (EPSCO)

23 Feb · 11h00

Press conference following the informal video conference of Employment and Social Policy Ministers (EPSCO) © Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021 / Pedro Sá da Bandeira

The Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights is a fundamental instrument for responding to and overcoming the economic and social crisis. This was the main conclusion reached by the 27 Members States at the first session of the informal council of EU Ministers for Employment and Social Policy.

The Ministers, Social Partners and civil society made it clear that the Action Plan must be a strong, ambitious one and show that only a social Europe can get us through this crisis. The work began at a plenary session which was attended by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, the Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Guy Ryder, and the Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs at the OECD, Stefano Scarpetta.

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Ana Mendes Godinho, Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security © Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021 / Pedro Sá da Bandeira

The first session, chaired by the Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Ana Mendes Godinho, concluded the importance of implementing extraordinary measures to support employment in response to the crisis. The priority must be job creation and maintenance. The Action Plan, which will be presented by the European Commission in March, should be an instrument to overcome and respond to the unprecedented economic crisis, ensuring that in the digital and green transition nobody is left back.

Aimed at discussing some of the more important topics in terms of the economic and social recovery of Europe, there were three parallel working sessions covering the areas of employment, qualifications and fighting poverty and social exclusion. At the meeting ministers identified the ambition of an Action Plan with qualitative and measurable goals.

Gender equality as a driver for recovery

“Gender equality as a driver for recovery” was the topic discussed at the afternoon plenary session. The meeting was chaired by the Portuguese Minister of State for the Presidency, with the participation of the European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, and looked at issues related to the impact of the pandemic on the exacerbation of inequalities between men and women.


Apart from health issues and notwithstanding the enormous mitigation effort made by the EU and by all the Member States, the measures adopted to control the disease have had unprecedented economic and social impacts on families and on the labour market, intensifying pre-existing gender inequalities.

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Mariana Vieira da Silva, Portuguese Minister of State for the Presidency © Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021 / António Pedro Santos/LUSA

This is why one of the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU is aimed at ensuring that the gender perspective is reflected in the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, promoting equal opportunities and making the most of everyone’s potential. All agreed that the policies defined in this context must deal not only with the inequality seen at this time, but also act on the structuring factors of inequality that have been exacerbated by the consequences of the pandemic crisis. These factors continue to limit and restrict the participation of women in the labour market and in decision-making positions.


It is vital that the EU and the Member States look on gender equality as a driver of recovery and a condition for sustainable development, as well as a response to the challenges of the twin transition to a more ecological and digital society. In this context, the incentive from the European Commission to include the gender perspective in national recovery and resilience plans was decisive. 


In the same way, the Portuguese Presidency is committed to building a joint response based on concrete data that will allow the real impact and effects of the COVID-19 crisis to be gauged in terms of the labour market, income and reconciling personal, family and professional life. These data will be released on 5 March next by the EIGE - European Institute for Gender Equality and will support the Conclusions of the Council that the Presidency will be presenting.

See here the highlights from the meeting:

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