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Minimum wage and the EU: Happily ever after?

Claire Dhéret , Mihai Palimariciuc

Date: 29/05/2020
Once deemed a pipe dream, a concrete plan for a European framework on minimum wages might finally be in the cards.

The framework will have to be ambitious enough to deliver progress for low-wage workers, but also flexible enough to accommodate the very diverse wage-setting regimes present across the EU. On top of that, the Commission must deal with the opposition to EU interventions in determining wages, and convince sceptics of the economic, social and political benefits of having a European framework.  

The Commission should, therefore, strive for (i) the creation of an egalitarian wage structure that supports decent living standards; and (ii) building broad political consensus.

A proposal will be launched soon, following an official announcement and a first round of consultations earlier this year. The Commission’s current approach offers a solid starting point to tackle multiple social challenges. Its desire to achieve several objectives at once, such as the promotion of decent living, and the convergence of social realities across the EU, is commendable. But to succeed, the Commission will need to come up with concrete instruments and demonstrate a great deal of political agility.

By promoting decent minimum wages for all, the EU would help improve the current social climate and contribute to the development of the EU's caring dimension, which has become even more vital in the current COVID-19 crisis. It would also prove that the Commission's immediate crisis-related measures will not undermine its long-term ambition for a Social Europe.

Now more than ever, the EU needs to prove its worth to those who have benefitted the least from the technological progress, globalisation and expanding wealth of the last four decades. Setting up a European framework on minimum wage would deliver concrete results for millions of workers across the Union.

Read the full paper here
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