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Working, Yet Poor

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WorkYP (Working, Yet Poor)

Reporting period: 2020-02-01 to 2021-03-31

The project Working and Yet Poor (WorkYP) is focused on the increasing social trend of working people at risk or below the poverty line. The Consortium will devote its research to explore the reasons of such phenomenon and elaborate recommendations to the EU and MSs legislators, to enhance the goals proclaimed in the European Pillar of Social Rights. The WorkYP Project analyses seven representative Countries (Sweden, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Poland), selected on the basis of their geographical area, as well as their different social systems and legal orders. In each such Country, the WorkYP Project has identified four clusters of particularly Vulnerable and Underrepresented Persons (VUP Groups), which disadvantaged conditions impede full enjoyment of EU citizenship.

Attenuating divergent trends across Europe will effectively prevent the risk of social dumping and reduce economic shocks. Only tackling vertically the vulnerabilities of VUPs and attenuating inequalities across diverging regimes will grant EU citizens, mostly those who do not circulate, regaining confidence in public governance and substantiating their citizenry’s status.

Each local unit is composed by experts in labour law, social security, industrial relations, economics, sociology, social rights, and poverty in general. One of the main features of the project is that such expertise is combined in the understanding of in-work poverty and in the elaboration of policy proposals. Luxembourg has nowadays one of the highest in-work at-risk-of poverty rates in the EU (13.5% in 2018), the second highest in EU. In the same period, Belgium had 5.2 Germany 9.1 Italy 12.2 The Netherlands 6.1 Poland 9.7 and Sweden 7.0. We centred the WorkYP Project on the idea of VUP: in contrast to VIP (i.e. very important people), we minted the VUP acronym, which stands for Vulnerable and Under-represented Persons.

In each of the mentioned Country, we identified four clusters of particularly VUPs, which disadvantaged conditions impede full enjoyment of EU citizenship:
a) low wage workers
b) solo self-employed
c) flexible work contracts (fixed-term, agency work, involuntary part-time)
d) casual/zero-hours/gig-economy workers

The research intuition is that only tackling vertically the vulnerabilities of those VUP groups will grant citizens, mostly those who do not circulate, regaining confidence in public governance and substantiating their citizenry’s status. The impact of the WorkYP project is not limited to a deeper theoretical and practical understanding of those phenomena, but includes public debate initiation, policy recommendations both to the EU and the national legislators, and practical tools such as a “GoodJob!” certificate, to be granted to those employers who respect certain levels of working conditions. The overall message is that income inequality affects economic stability and social cohesion. The rise of in-work poverty is one of the elements to take into account when addressing income inequality.
We have implemented activities that were necessary to address project's goals and challenges. In cooperation with the project partners, we prepared the 15 deliverables that were foreseen to be produced in the first 14 months of the project timeline. We organized two major project events, namely the kick-off meeting in March 2020 and the first transnational project meeting in September 2020. With intention to have as coordinated work as possible, we organized an informal partners’ meeting in February 2021. These events contributed to stir the discussion on some crucial content-based issues, to align the methodological frame of the research work and to coordinate the research policies with the aim to get the most comprehensive outcomes, resulting in deliverables. During the reported period we addressed and attracted the relevant local stakeholders in all project partners’ countries, thus making sure that in-work poverty is better reflected in reality. Through the active engagement of stakeholders, we achieved the goal to get precious information and feedback on how to improve the single national policies. Project partners were also invited to participate at different national and European events, presenting the project and its findings.

We made sure that the website and social media were attractive and up to date, to approach to the target groups and to exchange knowledge and experiences with similar projects around the Europe. With the aim of better presenting the project, we prepared a brochure which contains all relevant information about the consortium, project topic and main objectives.
The WorkYP project is designed to have an impact on EU and national policy-making process and to explore the ways to reduce in-work poverty at all levels. The research work so far has been mainly focused on exploring and elaborating the causes of in-work poverty at national level, since this gave us an important overview and necessary basis for preparing relevant policy orientations at the EU level. The Project aligns with some EU initiatives that have among their aims the reduction of in-work poverty, such as the proposal on a Directive for adequate minimum wages. Therefore, although not initially planed as part of the Project the study of this initiative and its potential to tackle in-work poverty has been incorporated. In December 2020, an online webinar was organised with the support of the Project to discuss the proposal from a legal perspective.

Another important goal of the Project is to raise awareness on the topic of in-work poverty among academics, lawmakers and general public. The Project is still in its initial stage, but it has already produced some interesting results. In the assessments of indicators to measure in-work poverty the limitations of the existing tools have been highlighted. This limitations may be specially important in some particular cases (as, for instance, for Luxembourg). The idea that the existing indicators may be further refined is becoming clear. In next stages, the Project aims at elaborating structured and target oriented regulatory proposals to fight in-work poverty at national and EU level. If these proposals may influence the ongoing debates and initiatives, the impact of the Project would be substantial. The findings of the Project will also help to articulate a discourse on European social citizenship that may be useful to reinforce the image and legitimacy of the EU, strengthening citizen's trust in the European integration project.
WorkYP kick-off reading brochure
WorkYP kick-off reading report
WorkYP kick-off discussion