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What about the PHS sector in the European Care Strategy?

The PHS Social Partners – namely EFFAT, EFFE, EFSI and UNI Europa – co-hosted an event at the European Parliament on September 29, 2022 with the support of MEP Sirpa Piëtikainen, on the opportunities for the PHS sector following the European Care Strategy.

As rightfully pointed out by the MEP Piëtikainen (EPP Group), care modelling outside the institutional framework, notable homecare and community-based need to be put forwards as a way to provide care and ensure independent living for as long as possible. Moreover, she mentioned that special campaign funded by the European Commission and the Member States were needed to promote the sector and especially target men, as they only represent a very small percentage of the care workforce. Marion Finke, member of European Commission’s vice-president Dubravka Šuica’s cabinet recalled that the care workforce is underpaid, undervalued and facing unfair working conditions. Furthermore, she pointed out that the PHS sector has a huge potential to answer the growing demand for care at the European level.

The vice-president of the Parliament, MEP Evelyne Regner (S&D Group), welcomed the measures of the European Care Strategy, but highlighted the importance of digging deeper and changing the culture around care and caregivers. On that last point, care being mainly provided by women, closing the gender pay gap and addressing value of the services provided as much as the “equal work, equal pay” perspective. What is more, she pointed out that their needs to be more respect for care work from society, reflected in fair pay, working conditions and taking into account the profile of those working in the sector. MEP Véronique Trillet-Lenoir (Renew Group) added on that to mention the importance of mental health of the workers and the necessity to tackle undeclared work. On her side, MEP Eugenia Rodríguez Palop (GUE/NGL Group) underlined the necessity for Member States to ratify the ILO Convention 189.



Following MEPs’ interventions, PHS Social Partners presented their joint position on the European Care Strategy. They call on the European Commission to recognise the PHS sectors as such and acknowledges the different professional and skills’ profiles of the care workforce in its entirety. Also, the definition of “domestic long-term care workers” and “live-in carers” should be revised in the Council Recommendation proposal. To further ensure PHS workers’ rights and conditions, the Social Partners propose that the European Commission issues a proposal for a council recommendation on the ratification and implementation of the ILO Convention 189. Finally, the Member States are called upon to promote capacity building of national social partners, strengthening sectoral collective bargaining, and working conditions.

Furthermore, Lilana Keith, representative of PICUM, pointed out that migrant workers should be considered in the sectoral social dialogues to ensure their direct representation. Indeed, on top of the already precarious conditions of work in the sector, migrant workers face supplementary challenges due to legislative and national particularities (i.e., permits, admission conditions, etc.). This was followed by a debate with the participants on the usefulness of comprehensive public support schemes such as the Belgian Service voucher or the French SAP regulatory framework. The specific situation of au-pairs workers was also raised.

In conclusion, Lieve Verboven, Director of the ILO Office for the European Union and the Benelux countries, expressed the “5 R’s” needed for the PHS sector including, recognition, reduction and redistribution of unpaid care work, reward the workforce, and their representation. She also underlined that the sector could count on the ILO for their support towards more formalisation and better working conditions.