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Well-performing public services for a fair and resilient European society

Simona Guagliardo , Mihai Palimariciuc

Date: 10/02/2021
European public services are in urgent need of reform before they can realise the European Pillar of Social Rights' lofty ambitions and guarantee equal opportunities and access to jobs, fair working conditions and social protection for all. 

This EPC Issue Paper, produced with the support of the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI), analyses how global trends are challenging the operating models of Europe's public service sectors, such as central, regional and local administration, healthcare, education and public order and safety agencies. The authors make the case that the EU has a crucial role in encouraging its member states to steer innovative and progressive reform in these sectors, including through the European Semester process which is now intrinsically linked to the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

To help the European public service sector modernise, cope with new challenges and prepare for future disruptions, EU member states and institutions must set an EU public service agenda centred on five building blocks: 

  1. National governments must be encouraged to re-evaluate their support for public services, addressing the current financial and investment shortcomings. 
  2. EU member states must aim to improve the resilience and service quality of public services through comprehensive and ambitious reforms.
  3. The public sector workforce must be equipped with the right tools to face the ongoing transformations.
  4. European public services must attract new and young talent to address labour shortages.
  5. Public services must be digitalised to meet the expectations of consumers.

The European public service sector is grappling with multiple challenges at once. Digitalisation requires more infrastructure and training, while investment is lacking. An ageing population is putting a heavier burden on healthcare and social protection systems. The public service workforce is becoming older, too. And although the public service sector in Europe has to deal with increased demand, budgets have been slashed in recent years, forcing public services to do more with less. COVID-19 has only exposed and exacerbated these structural weaknesses, leaving the sector unprepared to deal with the current crisis.

As the pandemic rages on, and the health and socio-economic consequences worsen, people need to know they can count on efficient, fair and resilient public services. Through the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU is raising citizens' expectations. It is up to the member states to meet them.

Read the full paper here.
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