Speech of ELA's Executive Director Cosmin Boiangiu at ELA opening conference
Read the concluding remarks of ELA's Executive Director Mr. Cosmin Boiangiu at the first ELA annual conference and opening ceremony on 9 November in Bratislava, Slovakia
It’s been a long day but a very happy occasion for us working at ELA.
Today’s conference is coming to a close. I hope that you have enjoyed the discussions as much as I did.
I would like to use this opportunity to once again thank our speakers for having shared with us their insights and thoughts on the future of labour mobility and ELA’s role in it.
I would like to thank all the guests for their online and onsite attendance and contributions.
And I would like to thank all those who made this conference possible.
Ladies and gentlemen, today showed once again that the European labour markets are in a transition, and this also affects labour mobility.
New opportunities are arising for workers and employers, but new trends on the labour market also bring challenges.
On the side of opportunities we see
The digitalization, which offers a double opportunity
- firstly an opportunity for workers and employers to be less place-bound and hence more flexible – to become so-called “digital nomads”
- secondly, an opportunity for institutions due to the power of digital tools in monitoring, enforcement and administration of labour mobility, but also an opportunity for better informing workers and businesses about their rights and obligations, and reaching them where they are.
- The growth of new sectors as a consequence of mega trends, including green or digital, will not only bring opportunities in the national labour market, but will also be an opportunity to tap the potential of European labour mobility.
Talking about challenges, they are many times just the other side of the coin with opportunities. Let me mention a couple of them:
- While we will see the new sectors growing, other sectors would disappear or would require new skills, for example due to automation or use of artificial intelligence. The mismatches between skills and the demands of employers may result in imbalances on the labour market.
- Digitalisation may offer more freedom – but it may also bring remote undeclared work, difficulties for workers to access their social security benefits and also increased difficulties for labour inspectors to ensure the fair working conditions of workers.
How do we address those challenges? We have two words lying deeply in the heart of Authority: fair and effective.
- Fair, as all jobs in the Union have to be fair and with fair labour conditions, as correctly pointed out by the Commissioner.
- Effective, by securing that skills of workers, particularly for future generations, match the needs of our companies and labour markets, and of our society in general.
To put it shortly: today’s discussions highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities that the future of labour mobility may bring with it. Some are well-known while others are only slowly taking shape.
Today’s discussions also showed that we do not necessarily have to re-invent the wheel.
And this is where ELA comes into the play.
ELA to is here to help to achieve an inclusive, coherent, resilient and responsible labour markets across Europe.
This Authority was established with great ambitions.
- Better information for individuals and businesses about their rights and about their obligations,
- a better guarantee that rules are enforced effectively and that those who play by the rules are not undercut by others;
- better cooperation and simplification of the work across national administrations;
- And the possibility of mediation and hands-on support in case of cross-border issues.
The Authority is not theoretical. It has a wide-ranging operational dimension. We want to be very operational and very engaged on the ground. We say it often, less talk and more action is our guiding motto.
ELA has quite a diverse mandate but just one purpose: to support Member States, social partners, and the European Commission to tackle the practical problems that workers, companies, often the SMEs, are facing.
And all of this under one roof, striving to streamline the work on labour mobility in the European Union.
Let me give you a few examples on how ELA can address current and future challenges, developments, and opportunities linked to labour mobility – by focusing on better information, better enforcement, and better cooperation.
We do not necessarily lack the instruments of communication. We have been lacking a specific information approach encompassing all forms of labour mobility and coordinating those instruments. A dedicated information and service hub, so to say.
- The Commissioner but also Mr Tom Bevers, the Chair of ELA’s Management Board already mentioned the ELA’s Action Plan on Seasonal Workers and it’s campaign “Rights for all seasons”.
- This campaign has been a pioneering project for ELA in our effort to translate the notion of an “information hub” into real life, to address the information challenges characterising every phase of seasonal work (recruitment, working conditions on the ground, promotion of declared work) and then to diffuse this information all across Europe.
- Information will also be crucial in the future – the ongoing changes in the labour market will make the working life reality of workers and businesses more complex – for example information on what social security rules apply for digital nomads, to highlight the importance to ensure that individuals and employers are always aware of their rights and obligations.
Changes in the labour markets, especially the changed demand for workers in sectors across the EU, has also been mentioned today.
- Shortages of workers in certain sectors became crystal clear during the pandemic – and the news on shortages of lorry drivers in the UK was only a reminder to better keep track of such developments in our labour markets.
- Here lies ELA’s mission of making labour mobility an effective tool to compensate the imbalances by the potential of Single Market, employing all its tools, particularly European job portal – EURES.
Fair rules are needed, but they are not sufficient. Fair rules need to be enforced to be effective. For this, we need administrative and enforcement cooperation.
- We already have IMI and EESSI and we are ready to use improved or new digital tools in future, should they become a reality.
- I am strong advocate of ELA being the first digitalised Agency, particularly regarding its operational activities but also to be at the forefront of digitalisation on every social or labour dimension.
Concerning enforcement: A few Member States were already carrying out joint inspections on the basis of bilateral agreements. But we need day-to-day cooperation and shared workflows encompassing all Member States, to address daily, practical problems ranging from simple language barriers to different national approaches to labour and social security legislation.
I am happy to say that ELA already carried out its first inspections and we see a growing interest from national authorities to engage with ELA. But we are willing and working on overcoming the cooperation or administrative challenges that still exist for stronger cooperation in enforcement.
Our national liaison officers are here to help with the cooperation. We also had fruitful discussions with the Member States to improve their capacities when applying rules and legislation to real life situations and also to better see the value added in enhancing cooperation in enforcement.
But we also have the ambition for ELA to be able to analyze and anticipate future trends. Here I agree with Chair of the EMPL Committee Nicholsonova that collection of data and their analysis is the first precondition for policies responsive to the situation on the ground. That is why we will invest very much in our risk assessment and labour mobility analysis capabilities.
Today’s discussions also showed that all actors are collectively responsible for delivering on the expectations we raised – EU level as well as national level; legislators as well as implementing bodies and social partners – but also employers and workers.
To govern cross-border mobility dynamics, no one is self-sufficient. The very reason of the Authority is that of promoting partnerships and broad cooperation.
The speakers and participants today reflected the diversity of relevant stakeholders in this area:
- National competent authorities as key drivers of law enforcement;
- The social partners with their specific knowledge on the grounds and contribution to bringing the perspective of workers and companies.
- The European Parliament as one of our most important and exigent supporter, always bringing a great contribution to shaping the work of the Authority.
- The European Commission which ensures the coherence with the general policy framework and legislative initiatives in the field;
- And of course also ELA’s partners within the circle of EU agencies and other bodies, as well as the EFTA countries.
As it often happens, bringing together in the same framework of action different expertise, backgrounds, knowledge and visions will not just translate in a sum of these elements.
It will help to create a common work culture in labour mobility that, I am sure, will become one of the most important contributions of this Authority to fairness and trust in the Internal Market.
This has been ELA so far:
- 2021 has been a year of transition for ELA, on all fronts. ELA has reached a new phase of its development – and you will already have heard some our achievements.
- We are now entering a phase of consolidation.
- The operational context for ELA over the next years will not be easy.
- COVID-19 has put labour mobility under pressure again. And this comes on top of the other challenges mentioned today.
To conclude, today gave us all an overview of the rational of ELA’s action in labour mobility, the practical challenges of today and a glimpse of what could happen tomorrow.
ELA has started with the right foot. High expectations, strong work dedication, and first results delivered in a timely manner despite the hurdles that the COVID-19 pandemic brought onto us.
That will be our mission for the next couple of years: to scale-up our operations, to consolidate our organization, to engage in high-risk, relevant areas like all those mentioned today in such a way that ELA becomes a respected and trusted instrument, ready and able to respond to all the high expectations that are placed on us.
We are trusting that Member States, social partners, the European Commission, the European Parliament and all other actors, including all who have joined ELA’s actions across will continue to be supportive stakeholders and play their part in making fair , effective and smooth labour mobility in Europe a reality.
I thank you once again for your interest and participation. I would also like to thank all my colleagues who have worked hard to make this event a success.
Thank you all and allow me at the end, because it’s a symbolic day, to wish ELA and my colleagues in ELA good luck and all the success in our hard but inspiring mission.