Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, social and employment ministers had their first physical meeting within the EPSCO Council on 14 June 2021 and they discussed several issues. They held three policy debates (on minimum wages, the follow-up of the Porto Social Summit and collective bargaining) and adopted a recommendation as well as three sets of conclusions.
The ministers adopted a Council Recommendation establishing a European Child Guarantee. The aim of this recommendation is to prevent and combat social exclusion of children, by guaranteeing access to a set of services, such as to high quality early childhood education and care, education and school‑based activities, at least one healthy meal each school day and healthcare. Hungary welcomed the Recommendation as combating child poverty and supporting families are key priorities of the Government. We have already taken several measures implementing this Recommendation, e.g. the children’s attendance in kindergarten is compulsory from the age of three; free meal is available both on school days and holidays which almost 600,000 children benefit in.
This March the European Commission published a new long-term strategy on the rights of persons with disabilities and the Council has approved conclusions in order to endorse the strategy. Hungary supported the adoption of these conclusions that accelerate the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2007, Hungary was one of the first to sign the Convention and ratified both the Convention and its Optional Protocol. Since then, we have taken wide-range of measures to support the education, training, employment, as well as independent living of people with disabilities and we have also been working to improve accessibility. The Hungarian Government has a special focus on employment and as a result, the employment rate of persons with disabilities has increased significantly: 10 years ago, it was only 18%, while in 2020 it reached 44%.
The Council adopted conclusions on telework, calling on Member States to consider establishing national action plans or strategies addressing the opportunities and risks related to telework in its different dimensions. In the document the Council also called on the Commission to promote further research on telework.
The ministers held a constructive political debate on the Commission’s proposal for a directive on adequate minimal wages in the European Union, where the majority of the Member States called for cautious rules that protect – apart from the workers right for decent wages - the autonomy of the social partners and the competence of the Member States. Regarding the social partners , the ministers expresses the same views during the political debate about the new challenges for social dialogue and collective bargaining.