Members' Research Service By / October 3, 2023

Beyond all that applause: How to ensure a sustainable and fair European care sector?

Do you remember how we used to applaud care workers’ courageous efforts in hospitals and homes for the elderly?

© European Union 2023 - Source : EP

Written by Meenakshi Fernandes, Claudio Collovà and Pernilla Jourde.

The work of caring for children, the elderly and people whose daily lives are physically difficult, lies at the heart of a well-functioning society. Yet, there are significant weaknesses in the European care sector, which came to the forefront of public attention during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Do you remember how we used to applaud care workers’ courageous efforts in hospitals and homes for the elderly?

Care workers are still waiting for real support. The problems that were so evident during the pandemic persist.

This OECD-EPRS policy roundtable delved into the current EU policy debate on ensuring a sustainable European approach to care,  generating high returns for society.

Hervé Boulhol, Senior Economist at the OECD, set the scene for the roundtable discussion with his presentation of the study entitled Beyond Applause? Improving Working Conditions in Long-Term Care.

Members of the European Parliament Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, Finland) and Milan Brglez (S&D, Slovenia), rapporteurs for the 2022 European Parliament resolution on towards a common European action on care, welcomed the study and the strong evidence it presented concerning labour shortages and poor working conditions in the long-term sector. Maria Walsh (EPP, Ireland), Co-Chair of the Coalition for Mental Health and Wellbeing in the European Parliament drew attention to the findings of higher mental health risks among care workers who face time pressure and work overload, and stressed the urgency to find answers. Elena Zacharenko, a care work academic from the University of Tampere raised the issue of migrants in the care work force and that recruiting workers from third countries is not a win-win solution. Meena Fernandes of EPRS shared research that the measures called for by the European Parliament could generate both social and economic benefits for society.

The lively debate touched on many aspects of the EU care sector and possible solutions to the current issues, including the need for intervention in both the paid and unpaid care sectors, the potential effectiveness of quality rating systems for care institutions, the need for public financing, and the prospects of care becoming a key issue in the European elections. Moderator Claudio Collovà of EPRS closed the event with a call to continue to improve support for care workers that goes beyond applause.

For more, please see the video:

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Please find the photos here.

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