As households and businesses face rising energy bills, the EU's Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights is stressing the importance of supporting small and medium-sized businesses all over Europe. "A lot of households and household incomes depend on the survival of SMEs. That's why it's important to support businesses and particularly SMEs," Nicolas Schmit told FRANCE 24's Armen Georgian. Schmit also discussed the latest developments on minimum wages and the regulation of platforms such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo.
On rising energy prices and businesses, Schmit said: "A lot of companies in sectors that consume a lot of energy could face difficulties. This starts not just with the big companies like steel, glass and chemicals, but also small companies like the baker, who needs energy to make his or her bread. There is a threat that companies stop production, or they displace the production outside Europe."
Asked about workers and new skills, the Commissioner addressed the issue of labour shortages. "The paradox is that unemployment has gone down, but we still have labour shortages. Especially in IT, but also in other services and in industries. Industry is looking for highly qualified people but also for less qualified people. We have to bring people into the labour market. We have a low participation of women in many countries. We have nearly 9 million young people out of the labour market, because they don’t have the soft skills they need."
On the issue of minimum wages, he said: "Adequate minimum wages are as necessary as ever, because wages have not followed inflation. We can’t decouple wages from this evolution. That’s how we should implement the Directive on adequate minimum wages. It’s not up to the EU Commission to impose a model, but we should work with the member states, so that collective bargaining is extended. Some countries have very good results, others less so. This is about European convergence."
Finally, asked about a recent protest by Uber Eats riders in France, Schmit agreed that there is a job security problem to be addressed. "This confirms the need to have clear rules in this sector. That's what we have done by proposing a Directive on working conditions for platform workers, and recognising their real status, and not this illusion that they are entrepreneurs. Many young people are treated socially in a way that should not be the case any more in Europe," he said.
Produced by Sophie Samaille, Perrine Desplats and Isabelle Romero