The European Parliament listens to families in Europe and votes in favour of the Work-Life Balance report!

Work-Life Balance? Ask your MEP to vote in favour of a solution-oriented report!Today, 13 September 2016, the European Parliament voted, in Strasbourg the resolution “Creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance” (by 443 votes in favour, 123 against and 100 abstention.

COFACE – Families Europe welcomes this vote because it represents a major step in responding to the needs of families and individuals in Europe and expresses a clear political commitment of the European Parliament to work to support families across the EU. With this vote, the EU Parliament is also making a clear call to Social Partners and to the European Commission, to present a comprehensive and ambitious reconciliation package, as announced in last year’s Roadmap.

Reconciliation policies, to be effective, must be a mix of different elements and should cover families’ needs along the life-cycle. What families need is a coherent package that includes EU legislative and non-legislative initiatives on leave schemes, for parents but also carers, provision of quality accessible and affordable care and support services, for children, elderly and  persons with disabilities, and flexible working arrangements.

The Parliament listened to families and their needs and has officially called upon the European Commission to bring forward initiatives for a paternity leave and a carers’ leave directive, to publish an implementation report of the parental leave directive and to consider proposing extensions to the minimum duration with adequate income replacement.

COFACE – Families Europe also welcomes the call of the Parliament to the EU Commission and Member States in relation to support and service provision for elderly and persons with disabilities and the establishment of targets on care on the model of the Barcelona objectives for childcare.

The EU Parliament refers also to the use of technologies and the promotion of smart-working and distance working as possible flexible working arrangement, reminding that, however, technologies can create a shift from a culture of presence at work to a culture of permanent availability, that must be avoided. COFACE – Families Europe share this view and will discuss this specific element in its upcoming conference in Berlin on 7-8 November on “the impact of digitalization on 21st century families”.

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Vote yes to strengthen Work-Life balance opportunities for Europe’s families – Joint Statement

Joint Statement Work-Life-Balance BANNER

On 13th September 2016, the European Parliament will be called on to vote the report 2016/2017(INI) “Creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance”.

We are 11 networks of NGOs and Local Authorities and since 2012 we have been working together to raise awareness about the daily challenges faced by women and men across the EU in reconciling their work, family and private life. We represent millions of children, adults and families across the EU, and we are calling on Members of European Parliament to cast a positive vote for this report.

In 2015, many of us jointly published a comprehensive policy document, the “European Reconciliation Package”, to propose concrete and coherent policy solutions, which cover the areas in the European Parliament report going to vote on 13th September. We believe that this European Parliament report contains many of the elements needed to trigger a positive change for women, men and Europe’s families. Reconciliation policies, to be effective, must be a mix of different elements and should cover families’ needs along the life-cycle and, therefore, we are calling on MEPs to vote this report in full, to avoid undermining its comprehensive and coherent nature.

In Europe today, 80% of care beyond care for children, is still provided by informal carers, mostly women family members and in family settings. Because of their lower income compared to men and because they are still expected to be the main carers, women often have no other choice than drop out of the labour market or reduce their working hours to care for an elderly parent, a family member with disability or a child below school age.

Lack of quality, affordable and accessible care and household services and a labour market unable to provide flexible working arrangements and adequate leave schemes are everyday concerns for a very high share of the population. Allowing men and women to better reconcile work, care and family responsibilities will positively impact female employment, as more women will be supported to enter and stay in paid employment, and on men’s take-up of care responsibilities.

Promoting legislation and policies that aim to share more equally the care responsibilities among women and men will help to reduce the discrimination and segregation women still face in the labour market and unlock their full potential. Moreover, it would reduce the rate of involuntary part-time employment and the drop-out rate of workers, especially women, from paid employment. It would also have an impact on future pensions, decreasing the risk of poverty in old age. We recall that there is a direct link between reconciliation and the reduction of the risk of poverty, especially among women. In the EU, the average gender pay gap is 16% and the gender pension gap is 40% and these figures should call us all to action.

At a time when women and men are losing their confidence in Europe, this report is a great opportunity to restore trust and show that Europe really cares about their real lives and concerns.

We count on your support!

For more information please contact: Paola Panzeri, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer, COFACE Families Europe, +32 2 500 56 92 –

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Call to Action! Work-Life Balance? Ask your MEP to vote in favour of a solution-oriented report!

The European Parliament Committees on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) and on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights (FEMM) jointly prepared and voted a report on “Creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance”. COFACE Families Europe has been actively involved in the preparation of this report, which is and will be a key piece of policy for the upcoming years, especially in view of a “Reconciliation Package” to be possibly proposed by the European Commission in the upcoming months.

The report will be voted in the upcoming European Parliament plenary session (12-15 September 2016) and COFACE Families Europe will be actively campaigning, together with its Members across Europe, to make sure that the report will succeed and be voted by a majority. The report, in its final draft to be voted, has all elements that we have been calling for since 2012: introduction of a paternity leave, introduction of a carers’ leave, amelioration of certain aspects of maternity and parental leaves, objectives on care services and guidance on flexible working arrangements in the workplace.

A positive vote to this report will be an important signal from the people of Europe to the European Commission for its proposal, recalling the importance of these topics for all families and individuals in Europe. However, to have our voice heard, we have to make sure our message gets through and that is why we invite everyone to send a simple email or phone call to their elected Member of the European Parliament, telling them how important this is and inviting him/her to vote in favour of report 2016/2017(INI)!

How to do that? Click on this link select your country and choose your MEP (you can select by political group and geographical areas). Once on the page of the MEP, you will find his/her email and phone number.

More information about this campaign please contact Paola Panzeri, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer (

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Synthesis Report “Work-life balance measures for persons of working age with dependent relatives in Europe – A study of national policies

In its 2016 Work Programme, the European Commission announced a ‘new start’ initiative on work-life balance covering both legislative and non-legislative measures. The intention is to review the EU regulatory and policy landscape in this field with a view to better tackling the challenges of work-life balance for parents and people with caring responsibilities.

To support the Commission’s analysis and to reinforce the ‘new start’ initiative, the European Social Policy Network (ESPN) was asked to take stock of the various measures in place to help working-age people with dependent relatives to balance work and caring responsibilities, and to assess their effectiveness. The ‘Synthesis Report “Work-life balance measures for persons of working age with dependent relatives in Europe – A study of national policies’ draws on the national contributions prepared by the 35 ESPN Country Teams.

This Synthesis Report is concerned with some of the key questions that arise regarding a) the work-life balance of working-age people (mainly women), who care for disabled and chronically ill dependent relatives, b) reconciling work and care obligations and c) maintaining the well-being of the carers and their families. The analysis focuses on carers of working age, whether or not they are actually working.

Link to the report and more information on the ESPN available here

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Sharing economy? Platform economy? Rather a new form of intermediary economy

blogconsumerssharingecoOn the 29th of June, the S&D European Parliament Group held a conference on the Platform Economy entitled «European Consumer – between e-commerce models and data pricing».

COFACE Families-Europe has been closely following developments in the “sharing economy” which is a part of the larger “platform economy”. The concerns are many, as exemplified by the speech of British Member of Parliament Chi Onwurah which identified five challenges linked to the digitalization of our economies:

  • Identity: Who controls your online identity? Who is it shared with?
  • Data: Who controls your data? Even if in theory you own your data, this right is meaningless if you cannot pass it on or take it back.
  • Algorithms: Who makes choices about how these are configured? This question is key as very often, such algorithms will be responsible for deciding how “healthy” you are in the eyes of a health insurer, or how “creditworthy” you are in the eyes of a creditor.
  • Collaborative/sharing economy: This is basically a new “intermediary” economy, where platforms like Uber play the role of intermediaries between consumers and drivers. Issues at stake include sick pay, workers’ rights, social rights, pension rights, leave policies etc.
  • Digital inclusion: One can never assume that technical solutions will always benefit society as a whole and policies always have to keep in mind and cater to the needs of the digitally excluded.

The EU Commission is also looking into these challenges. As part of its REFIT work programme, the EU Commission is looking at consumer legislation and whether any Directive requires updating due to new emerging challenges. Enforcement of existing legislation is a top priority as well since many Directives already apply to online platforms but are not enforced properly. For instance, the e-commerce Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive apply to platforms yet there have been cases where Terms of Service of clearly violated these rules.  The Commission stressed the importance of providing guidance to platforms to help them abide by the rules.

Yet new legislation is required to tackle a number of issues.

Ranking, sorting and algorithms

Given the sheer mass of information, content, products or services available on platforms, it is impossible to display all of it on a single page. Thus sorting mechanisms, often relying on home baked algorithms, allow users to see the most relevant or “best” results for his/her query on the first page.

As underlined by BEUC’s representative David Martin Ruiz, this ranking system raises many concerns in terms of transparency, impartiality and default sorting solution.  Do consumers understand how results are sorted?  Can businesses boost their ranking by paying premium fees?  How are the results sorted by default?  Is it sorted via the “home baked” algorithm or by price, date, location…?

On a larger scale, COFACE Families-Europe raised the issue of opening up algorithms for competition. Whether it is Facebook’s newsfeed, Google’s search results or’s rankings, all of these sort information via an internal algorithm. Yet there is nothing preventing other actors to develop their own sorting/ranking algorithms and include them in a list of sorting options inside these platforms, much like the option to sort content by date, price, location etc. Facebook, for instance, has moved from displaying content sorted by date on Instagram to sorting it via an internal algorithm, leaving users no choice!  Alternative algorithms could even get their own reviews from users to help users make a decision about which algorithm to choose.

More generally, it is essential that algorithms used in vital settings like assessing insurance risks or creditworthiness are bound by strong ethical values and standards with public/democratic oversight and governance.  Any such algorithm must pass a series of “tests” such as the impact on social inclusion, discrimination, accessibility to services etc.


While reviews have been a very useful tool for users to provide feedback but also, to help them find the products/services they need, the way they are set up can play against their interests. For instance, if the platform hosting the reviews has the power to remove reviews at their own discretion. Business models around “fake reviews” have also emerged online.

In this regard, COFACE-Families Europe has advocated for outsourcing reviews to a “neutral” and trustworthy service. Examples include TrustPilot but there are more. By oursourcing reviews, you ensure that businesses cannot tamper with reviews and you can also implement scam and fake review filters by verifying that the customer has purchased the service/good they reviewed.

Dynamic pricing and price discrimination

Many businesses including Airlines, online retailers and Uber use dynamic pricing systems which adjust the price of goods/services based on a number of variables, the most common one being offer/demand considerations.  Other variables could include the consumers’ profile (whether he/she compares many offers before buying or is an impulsive buyer), and a consumers’ country of origin (evaluating the purchasing power of a consumer).  This raises many concerns in terms of impartiality, transparency and fairness, with the risk of excluding people from accessing goods/services.

Another issue is the “race to the bottom” phenomenon for creators/sellers on online platforms. For instance, artists and content creators face competition from all over the world including such countries as India, Senegal, Bangladesh, where people are ready to work for rock bottom pay, effectively killing any hope for independent artists/content creators to make a living if they are based in a developed economy.  Some solutions may be to create new forms of trade unions to protect these new independent workers, or to set minimum pricing policies.

New indicators

Users do not understand the platform economy and especially, the new business models which are at the heart of their development.

On in-app purchases, the Commission has worked in partnership with platforms to include a notification that “free” apps include in-app purchases to warn users. This is not enough.  Users need new indicators to be able to compare different business models such as a fixed price/licensing model to an in-app purchases model via displaying indications of the average price paid by users who installed an app with in-app purchases.

For platforms relying on advertising, indicators such as ratio of advertising to regular content would inform users about the balance between the two and being able to monitor its development. We have seen a steady increase in advertising on all types of platforms including webstreaming such as Youtube or social networks such as Facebook.

For more information, see the S&D conference website here

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Are families ready for digital changes? – COFACE at the OECD Ministerial Meeting on Digital Economy


We were very pleased to participate in the OECD 2016 Ministerial Meeting on Digital Economy: Innovation, Growth and Social Prosperity last week, to bring the family perspective and to explore new topics and challenges to better understand the impact of digitalisation on families.

The Ministerial Meeting (22-23 June) aimed to move forward the digital agenda in four key policy areas: 1/Internet openness and innovation, 2/Trust in the digital economy, 3/Building global connectivity and 4/Jobs and skills in the digital economy.


The OECD incorporated stakeholder inputs through its own advisory committees: Internet technical (ITAC), business (BIAC), civil society (CSISAC) and trade union (TUAC) actors.

COFACE-Families Europe, together with the Civil Society Stakeholder group CSISAC met the day before the Ministerial Meeting (21 June) to engage the OECD, member countries, and others in a dialogue on fundamental social concerns “Towards an Inclusive, Equitable, and Accountable Digital Economy”. Five panels were organised on issues such as Civil Society Emerging Issues and Goals and Consumers and Workers in the Digital Work.

COFACE-Families Europe underlined two key issues from the perspective of family associations:

First, the imperative need to systematically consider, whenever data is being processed in any way, whether it may be result in discrimination or hitting disproportionately vulnerable groups like the migrants, people with disabilities, the elderly, children and so forth. Big Data carries much potential ranging from preventive policies in health or finance, to speeding up advances in research which could save people’s lives.  At the same time, it could result in discrimination in areas such as access to financial services, insurance, employment or even access to housing! Setting strong standards and governance for data processing, which uphold key principles and values of solidarity, mutualization or socialization of risk is a major priority for COFACE-Families Europe.

Second, the need to create new indicators to help users navigate the Internet and guide their choices and behaviours online. Just like food labelling and energy efficiency labelling is meant to assist consumers in making better choices, new indicators such as the ratio between advertising and native content, the average amount spent by users on freemium apps or free-to-play games, whether and to what extent data is being sold to third-parties… all of these would help users make choices about the services they use and evaluate whether such services are “good value for time” or “good value for data”, since time and data are “new” forms of online currencies.

COFACE has contributed to the Forum with a policy briefing reflecting on a variety of issues – 2016 Digital Economy Ministerial Meeting

Additional links:
Website CSISAC forum:
Website OECD Ministerial Meeting on Digital Economy:

Social Media :
#OECDdigitalMX #digitaleconomy @COFACEEU @OECDinnovation @OECD @CSISAC

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EP calls for common parental leave rules to be enforced

Everyone, without regard to gender, should be guaranteed the right to parental leave without discrimination, regardless of the employment sector or the type of contract under which working fathers and mothers are employed.

There are big differences in parental leave rules around the EU, and especially on who is entitled to take it. Public sector employees often have more protection than those in private businesses, and in some member states workers on fixed-term or zero-hour contracts are not always included.

The EU’s common rules on minimum parental leave should be better enforced EU-wide, says the European Parliament in a resolution voted on May 12th. The resolution, drafted by Maria Arena (S&D, BE) was passed by 491 votes to 101, with 38 abstentions.

MEPs call on the Commission and the social partners to extend the minimum duration of unpaid parental leave from 4 to at least 6 months and advocate introducing EU rules on a minimum 2-week paternity leave. The EP looks also forward to detailed rules for granting parental leave to parents of children with a disability or serious or long-term incapacitating illness… Read more

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COFACE welcomes a report on work-life balance and invites MEPs to support it

While waiting for the European Commission to analyse the responses to the public consultation and preparing a proposal for a European Reconciliation Package, the European Parliament has taken a pro-active attitude and initiated a report on “Creating labour market conditions favourable to work-life balance” (see previous post). The report will be voted during the summer, and then, presented and voted in Strasbourg. COFACE welcomes this report and invites MEPs to support this initiative with a positive vote. COFACE welcomes in particular:

Life-cycle approach: reconciliation should not be seen and promoted as a benefit for young parents only, but as a system and a safety net for all family members throughout their lives. Family needs evolve with times and difficult situations may arise from an accident, an illness, an ageing parent needing more support or simply because part of the family is moving in another city or country. Countless are the situations where families need the possibility of arranging their work and care responsibilities or rely on the presence of care services to be able to cope.

Recognizing the role of technology at the workplace but being aware of the risk of a shift from a “culture of presence” to a “culture of availability”: smartphones, laptops and being able to be connected to the internet almost everywhere have increase exponentially the possibilities for telework, flexibility and being able to arrange working commitments around family and care responsibilities. However, the risk of falling into a “culture of availability 24/7” because of this access to technology is very high and we should be very careful in respecting workers’ rights and well-being.

Establishment of targets that would go beyond childcare: while the achievement of the Barcelona targets remains a fundamental objective, in an ageing society we cannot refuse to see the high number of workers (mainly women), aged 45+, that reduce their working hours or drop out completely of the labour market to care for an ageing or dependent family member. This has an impact on their income but even more dramatically on their future pension. Therefore, it is fundamental to introduce targets on care for elderly and other dependents, with monitoring tools within the European Semester.

Legislative proposals for the introduction of a EU paternity leave directive and a EU carers’ leave directive. Legislation in the EU Member States are very different in these two areas but the need for specific tools to ensure families with the possibility of taking care of their newborn and family members with care needs are equal across the EU. COFACE believes that the best way to ensure rights to all families in Europe in this area is by introducing specific legislation with European standards.

Monitoring and enforcement of current legislation as the Parental Leave Directive to ensure transposition and identify areas that could be improved.

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Creating Labour Market Conditions Favourable for Work-Life Balance

News-03-2016-WLB EPFollowing the announcement by the European Commission of a new initiative called “New start to address the challenges of work-life balance faced by working families”, the European Parliament Committees EMPL and FEMM, decided to draft jointly, an own initiative report on “Creating Labour Market conditions Favourable for Work-Life Balance”. The report is to serve as an input into the Commission’s Roadmap and provide the position of the Parliament on the work-life balance policies. The co-rapporteurs are: Tatjana Zdanoka (Greens/EFA) for EMPL and Vilija Blinkeviciute (S&D) for FEMM. In order to start this process and receive inputs, the Committees organized a public hearing on 22 March 2016, giving the floor to a pool of experts.

Paola Panzeri, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer was invited to present COFACE’s work and position on the European Commission upcoming initiative. In her speech, she highlighted the necessity of a coherent initiative that can support all families along the life-cycle and the importance of evaluating the positive and negative consequences that technologies can have in the world of work. Finally she presented the three main calls that COFACE is putting forward for this new initiative:
1. A comprehensive set of legislative measures for leave policies.
2. A monitoring and benchmarking system for care services provision within the EU semester (beyond childcare).
3. Policy guidance, awareness raising and share of practices for implementing better flexible working arrangements at Member States and company levels.

COFACE response to the public consultation
More information on the event click here

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How the digital revolution changes the way we work, produce and consume

robotBy Martin Schmalzried

The sixth edition of the IMCO Working Group on the Digital Single Market focused on the topic: “Digital jobs: how the digital revolution changes the way we work, produce and consume”. It brought together a number of experts and MEPs to discuss challenges that the digital revolution brings in our daily lives and how these challenges can be addressed by legislators. Two external experts gave very insightful keynote speeches:

Robert Atkinson, from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, underlined that the digital revolution has been overblown. Artificial intelligence is not around the corner, jobs will not be massively lost, the “gig” economy represents only 1% of the current work force in the US and will only slightly grow by 2020. Furthermore, the Gig economy is not about watering down labour laws, working conditions, undermining the welfare state and avoiding taxation but rather about increased flexibility of work, putting pressure on other services for increasing their efficiency/quality and providing better consumer service.

Stefan Herwig, from Mindbase Strategic Consulting, insisted on the need to regulate the digital economy to avoid the abuse of market power which could lead to market failure. He also addressed the question of online business models relying on the exploitation of personal data. From a survey carried out in Germany, 80% of people believe it is not OK for services to be offered for free but make money with the personal data of their users. New developments such as personal assistants like Google Now, Cortana and Siri pose a number of issues regarding user privacy and protecting their rights. More transparency is needed to help consumers navigate the digital revolution, but at the same time, we need stronger regulation to protect consumers but also the creative content industry. There is a clear struggle between the infrastructure (Google, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Amazon) which serves to disseminate digital content and the digital content creators. When comparing the “analog” creative industry with the “digital” creative industry, we see that the “digital” creative industry fares much worse in terms of growth and turnover. A new balance must be struck to ensure that both the creative industry and the infrastructure thrive, notably through a revised and better copyright law.

Finally, Edward Chancellor stresses in his work that the digital economy and the Internet does not affect the whole value chain. It has provided jobs for relatively few people. For instance, Google has only 33.000 full time employees. The Internet has produced a handful of billionaires but has done nothing regarding median household income.

COFACE is very sensitive to a number of these issues. The question of privacy and fair use of personal data is at the center of its lobbying activities within the Safer Internet policy area. While Robert Atkinson’s presentation minimizes the impact of digitalisation on work, production and consumption, COFACE is skeptical whether the changes that are yet to come will be “smooth” and gradual rather than disruptive. Even if developments in technology, robotics, AI, are gradual, there is no guarantee that the transition for families and workers will be smooth. Job creation may not be fully in sync with job destruction, creating large frictional unemployment which may even become structural as the workers whose jobs were destroyed might not have the necessary skills to transition to new jobs.

With regards to the gig economy, COFACE does not believe that it provides true flexibility, especially in terms of holidays, work life balance considerations, maternity/paternity leave, sick leave and so forth. While “traditional” workers have a paid holiday, paid sick leave, compensation for loss of employment, access to healthcare, access to maternity/paternity leave, gig economy workers are fully dependent financially upon their continued and uninterrupted work, with no guarantees such as minimum salary or maximum working hours.

Finally, COFACE has taken good note of the challenges posed by the unequal distribution of the benefits of the digital revolution and the Internet and will reflect on the way all parties can benefit. There should be a fairer distribution of wealth and profit between digital infrastructure companies and individual families where one or more members of the family is a content creator and which rely on the digital economy for their livelihood.

COFACE intends to hold a conference on how the digital revolution affects the lives of families and especially how it will affect the world of work. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social networks to receive updates on our upcoming events!

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