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Parliament supports far-reaching measures to combat inequality

With the EU failing to meet its 2020 target to lift 20 million citizens out of poverty, the European Parliament voted to approve MEP Özlem Demirel’s report on ‘Reducing inequalities with a special focus on in-work poverty’, sending a strong message to the Commission that the issue can no longer be put on the back burner.

The Covid-19 pandemic has plunged the EU into a social crisis, already brewing before the pandemic, due to the prevalence of precarious work, in-work poverty and weak social nets.

The proposals developed by MEP Özlem Demirel (DIE LINKE, Germany), now supported by a majority of MEPs, call for a more central role to be given to trade unions, the strengthening of collective bargaining, adequate statutory minimum wage and recognition for platform workers.

Demirel has also called for an end to the practice of zero-hour contracts and for companies registered in tax havens to be barred from access to the Recovery Fund, among other measures to strengthen the European Pillar of Social Rights.

“The EU is one of the wealthiest regions in the world. There’s an unbelievable wealth accumulation here. Yet, one in five Europeans, some 95 million people, are threatened with poverty. Almost six percent of EU citizens endure extreme material deprivation,” Demirel said, highlighting that the pandemic has made things much worse.

“My report, now approved by the European Parliament, calls attention to the staggering levels of inequality, with a focus on in-work poverty, the fact that many workers cannot live off their salaries alone. We need Europe-wide minimum standards, strong social security systems, we need pensions and wages that guarantee dignified living.

“Big businesses are being bailed out with public funds while laying off their workers. This is unacceptable. Employees are being made redundant while shareholders are paid dividends. This practice must end.

“We need to provide job security to workers, minimum income initiatives, a child guarantee, an ambitious minimum wage initiative, recognition for platform workers and end the subordination of social rights to the whims of the market.

“I call on Commissioner Schmitt to take on board the approved proposals so that we can combat poverty and social exclusion, and build a life of dignity for all workers and people in Europe,” Demirel concluded.

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