Since its emergence at the end of 2019 in China, Covid-19 has escalated from a local health emergency to a global pandemic. The disease itself, as well as measures to fight it, have deeply affected European societies and economies, bringing several sectors of the economy to more or less of a halt (such as tourism, hospitality, aviation and entertainment). GDP is projected to take a hit of around 10% within the Euro area in 2020, with marked differences between member States. Vulnerable populations are already suffering the most severe consequences.
Existing inequalities have been exacerbated, impacting several of the social rights guaranteed by the European Social Charter, such as the right to work, the right to protection from poverty and social exclusion, and the right of children to education and protection.
Member States should urgently implement support measures targeting vulnerable populations. They should make the fight against income inequality a political priority and guarantee sufficiently high minimum wages, as suggested by the Parliamentary Assembly in Resolution 2158 (2017) on “Fighting income inequality: a means of fostering social cohesion and economic development”. They should encourage employers to adopt a stress-reducing organisation of work with shorter, four-day weeks, flexible work time options, as well as greater autonomy and teleworking possibilities, as recommended in the Assembly Resolution 2267 (2019) on “Stress at work”.
The Assembly thus recommends that the governments of member States take the necessary measures to overcome the socio-economic crisis sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic by shielding the most vulnerable people and businesses with social and economic policies, by containing outbreaks using tried and tested, effective public health measures, implemented in a human rights-compliant way, as suggested by the Assembly in Resolution 2329 (2020) on “Lessons for the future from an effective and rights-based response to the Covid-19 pandemic”, and by minimising harm to the economic and financial system while putting the people and the planet first.