Debates on the Future of Work must include young people’s mental health and well- being

The EUMH Alliance’s response to the adoption of Council Conclusions on Young People and the Future of Work

Brussels, 24th May 2019

The European Alliance for Mental Health – Employment & Work (EUMH Alliance) – an informal coalition of European organisations promoting mental health and well-being in the workplace – acknowledges the adoption of the Council conclusions on Young People and the Future of Work and highlights the need to include young people’s mental health in all debates on the Future of Work in the European Union (EU). Addressing youth and in-work poverty and work-life balance should be a must, not an option.

The meeting of EU ministers responsible for education, culture, youth, media, communication and sport took place in Brussels on 22-23 May 2019 and concluded with an adoption of the Council conclusions on Young People and the Future of Work[i]. The EUMH Alliance – Employment and Work welcomes the focus put on the young generation’s future of work. At the same time, in a world where costs related to occupational mental health challenges are substantial[ii] and constantly increasing[iii], the EUMH Alliance calls for the discussions around the Future of Work to address potential negative effects of the new forms of employment on mental health of young workers.

Changes in societies, including technological advances, demographic shifts and the new developments in how the work is organised, encourage the promotion of positive mental health and well-being.  To benefit from such transformations, all young Europeans, especially those with fewer opportunities, must have equal access to resources such as quality education and training, inclusive and preventative to support their good mental health, skills and resilience. For example, flexibility and better time control at work achieved through non-traditional working arrangements (home working, short-term) may allow better work-life balance and decrease stress associated with commuting. However, they may also pose major threats to workers’ mental health and well-being. Our latest podcast highlights the impact of the gig and platform economy (freelancers, digital developers or independent contractors such as Uber or take-away food sites) on young people’s mental health.

In the unregulated labour market, some Future of Work scenarios may suggest that workers in precarious and low-paid jobs, particularly those with low levels of skills and autonomy, could be easily left behind in terms of health and well-being, access to adequate social or legal protection from in-work poverty and discrimination. Indeed, fair remuneration and addressing rapidly increasing in-work poverty rates needs to be at the centre of debates. More efforts are needed to ensure better quality working conditions, including a more predictable income flow and income security. Such employment models should not deteriorate the young workforce’s occupational health and well-being.

There is also an urgent need to review and adapt current Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) strategies so that they pro-actively protect and preserve mental health and well-being of young people in line with the ‘Future of Work’ developments. If we want to ensure solid foundations of cognitive and digital skills– as the Council Conclusions propose – promoting mental health resilience and investing in digital and health literacy of young people is vital.

We, the EUMH Alliance – Employment and Work:

  • Welcome the explicit emphasis given to policies promoting employment and its role in improving the young people’s quality of life.These policies can have a meaningful impact on the social and physical environment of young people.
  • Support the Council Conclusion’s recommendation to promote a cross-sectoral policy approach when addressing youth employment, social inclusion and mental health outcomes, both at national and European levels and in the framework of cooperation between Member States.
  • Recommend using all relevant EU instruments with regard to the trends affecting the nature of work, ensuring implementation of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), ‘socialising’ the European Semester and deploying the next EU long-term budget (by means of the ESF+, HorizonEurope, InvestEU, Cohesion Policy Investments or DigitalEurope).
  • Urge the EU and Member States to ensure better implementation and enforcement of the OSH Framework Directive on young workers’ realities while further addressing mental health and psychosocial risks in their OSH strategies, including in the context of changing world of work.

 The EUMH Alliance will continue to actively facilitate constructive dialogue between its members and beyond to improve mental health equity, access to health and social protection and prevention measures of working environments and arrangements for all workers. Addressing youth and in-work poverty and work-life balance are a must, not an option.

***

The European Alliance for Mental Health – Employment & Work (EUMH Alliance) is an informal coalition of European organisations, the main aims of which are to promote mental health and well-being in the workplace, to advocate for equal access to the labour market for all people experiencing mental ill health and to stimulate policy developments at EU level in these domains. Our membership consists of:

 

[i] Council conclusions on Young People and the Future of Work (2019). https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-8754-2019-INIT/en/pdf

[ii] EU/OECD (2018). Health at a Glance: Europe 2018. State of health in the EU cycle. https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/state/docs/2018_healthatglance_rep_en.pdf (accessed on 23 April 2019)

[iii] EU-OSHA (2017). Estimating the cost of work-related accidents and ill-health: An analysis of European data sources. https://osha.europa.eu/en/tools-and-publications/publications/estimating-cost-work-related-accidents-and-ill-health-analysis/view (accessed on 23 April 2019)

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