Labour inspection services across Europe have been going through an existential crisis. With few exceptions, workforces have been reduced while inspectors have been assigned more extensive duties. Faced with these transformations in the world of work – most notably, the “digitalisation of the economy” – and with the emergence of new risks such as nanotechnologies, psychosocial risks, etc., the sheer scale of their mission can leave labour inspectors feeling powerless. This is a mission, moreover, that is becoming increasingly difficult to fulfil in a context of hostility towards state regulation and monitoring of companies.
Confronted with the changing nature of their mission and lacking political and public support, labour inspectors sometimes feel that they are walking a tightrope. It is becoming increasingly difficult for them to find the right balance between upholding their image of impartial civil servants and working to serve the needs of society – for many of them a deeply sincere endeavour.
Besides the challenge of combatting social dumping, the special report addresses other major concerns for building workers and their unions: the continuing exposure to asbestos, women's access to this industry and improving the safety of construction machinery.
Equality for men and women in the workplace has been one of the longest standing aims of European social policy. Forty years after the adoption of the first Directive, and in spite of numerous initiatives by the European Union, there is still a long way to go to achieve full gender equality in the workplace.
Deteriorating working conditions, lack of staff, job burnout: the health sector has been experiencing a serious crisis for a number of years. Across Europe, the trade unions are ringing alarm bells. The health of their members is at serious risk. In the countries worst affected by the recession, the policies of austerity have made the situation even worse and their knock-on effect has been a reduction in the quality of care.