The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) exists to speak with a single voice, on behalf of the common interests of workers, at European level. Founded in 1973, it now represents 90 trade union organisations in 38 European countries, plus 10 European Trade Union Federations. The ETUC represents 45 million members. The ETUC is a democratic and independent organisation, recognized by the European Union, the Council of Europe and the European Free Trade Association as the sole representative, multi-sector, trade union organisation at European level. The ETUC is the only social partner representing workers at European level in the framework of European social dialogue. The ETUC aims to ensure that the EU is not just a single market for goods and services, but is also a Social Europe, where improving the wellbeing of workers and their families is an equally important priority.

Key Messages

The Covid-19 pandemic, and the ensuing economic recession, has proved to be the harshest of ‘stress tests’ for the European Union, probing policymakers’ ability and willingness to emerge from this new crisis without repeating the mistakes of the past. Previous economic downturns have often been seen as an opportunity to impose deregulatory and austerity-driven policy reforms. However, as acknowledged in this twentieth anniversary issue of Benchmarking Working Europe, the EU-level responses to this current crisis appear to depart from the older, broadly discredited, recipes. In this context, this publication sets out the case for outlining a socially responsible and ecologically sustainable path out of the quagmire. The core elements of this strategy are: the need for unprecedented levels of public investment, the acknowledgement of the redistributive function of decent working conditions and fair wages, and last but not least the recognition of industrial democracy as a key pillar of any recovery plan. All of these aspects need to be reconciled with the overarching priority of a just transition to a green economy, undoubtedly the greatest challenge that Europe currently faces and one that it must embrace fully in the years to come.


A virus is haunting Europe. And it could strike again. This year’s 20th anniversary issue of our flagship publication Benchmarking Working Europe brings to a growing audience of trade unionists, industrial relations specialists and policymakers a simple warning: beside SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has caused the Covid-19 pandemic and thrown Europe’s economies into a sudden and profound recession, ‘austerity’ is the other nefarious agent from which workers, and Europe as a whole, need to be protected in the challenging months and years ahead. At this point in time, a new wave of austerity could not only undermine the post-Covid recovery, but it could also fundamentally undermine the European social and economic integration project.

Luca Visentini

ETUC General Secretary

Nicola Countouris

ETUI Director of Research Department

Philippe Pochet

ETUI General Director


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