[Excerpt] Eurofound’s new multiannual work programme was launched in 2017, initiating a series of research and communication activities in the areas that the Agency has identified as critical to progress in the upward convergence of living and working conditions across Europe. These six strategic areas for intervention are:
1. Working conditions and sustainable work
2. Industrial relations
3. Labour market change
4. Quality of life and public services
5. The digital age: Challenges for work and employment
6. Monitoring convergence in the European Union
Labour markets are healthier than they have been in a decade, with more people in work than ever before and the number of people active in the labour market at an all-time high. Unemployment is decreasing across the Member States, and youth unemployment fell dramatically over the course of 2017. While these are undeniable achievements, other dimensions of the employment narrative, highlighted by Eurofound’s labour market research, also demand our attention: the fact that there are not enough jobs to meet the demand for work, that too many workers struggle with poverty, and that a large group of people are completely alienated from the labour market, all of which is socially destructive.
The social impact of economic change and political decisions was set out in the first major output of Eurofound’s programme – the results of the 2016 European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS). This rich data source describes a Europe that has rallied from the wreckage of the recession. Across many dimensions of quality of life, Europeans are doing at least as well as before the economic crisis, if not better. But as well as heralding good news, the EQLS sends a clear signal that groups within our society are being failed by the economy, the labour market and social policy, that significant social inequalities remain, and that many citizens are anxious about the future.