The necessary balance between social, economic, and environmental issues in the industrial transition


By the EESC Workers’ Group

Industrial change may mean better jobs and working conditions, with sustainable growth and inclusiveness. Or it might mean rampant inequality and poverty, soaring unemployment for certain groups, and eventually a fracture in social cohesion that will endanger the EU and democracy itself.

Not for no reason, historical changes in the material conditions of production and labour relations have more often than not shaken the very foundations of society.

Nevertheless, the manner in which the change occurs will depend greatly on political choices. In the last plenary of December 2020, the EESC adopted a landmark opinion on the industrial transition, requested by the European Parliament, serving as a blueprint for the need for fairness and justice in technological and economic developments in industry and the world of work.

The recipe for overcoming the economic downturn of the pandemic and establishing a more resilient, modern, green, digital, and inclusive economy and society will need first and foremost a strong social component. The European Pillar of Social Rights must be at the centre of the transformation, which must involve clear, broad and strong participation of the social partners and a firm and clear regulatory framework.

This opinion therefore lays out the necessary, and often overlooked, balance, not only in environmental and economic terms, but also in social ones: leaving no one behind is not just a well-intentioned principle. It is a necessity if we are to prevent populism finishing what it started in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis and the austerity responses it triggered. (prp)

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