Compared to other member states, the Netherlands has a decent minimum wage and a good pension system. The European Commission tries to be facilitating and allow the member states a lot of freedom in setting up the new rules. The purpose of this is to bring member states closer together on the socioeconomic level. Johan Barnard and Wilfried Mulder feel it would be good for the Netherlands to participate in the development of the new European rules that the commission is setting up and to respond to them in a pragmatic way.
After years of strict austerity programs for member states with financial and economic problems, in recent years there has been increasing support to show that Europe can do a lot of good in the social arena. In 2017, government leaders, the European Commission and the European Parliament reached an agreement on the so-called European Pillar of Social Rights (link). This contains the EU's ambitions regarding equal opportunities and access to the labor market, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion. It is divided into 20 principles. Principle 6 deals with wages and Principle 15 with income for the elderly and pensions. Luxembourg Commissioner Nicolas Schmit was commissioned (link) to translate this social pillar into action. First with a proposal on minimum wage and then with an action plan for the other principles.
EU and minimum wage
The Commission recently presented the proposal for a directive on adequate minimum wages in the Union (link). This proposal includes provisions to promote collective bargaining between social partners (employers and employees). It also contains criteria that Member States should consider within the framework of a minimum wage. Because minimum wages are set by collective agreement between social partners in six member states, the proposal does not require a statutory minimum wage. However, it does not impose a specific level of minimum wages either. This is partly because the EU does not have the power to do so on the basis of the treaty, but also because it must be possible to take various factors into account, such as differences in labor productivity.
The Dutch government is positive about the proposal (link). Partly because adequate minimum wages in other member states (also) contribute to upward socio-economic convergence within the EU (convergence of member states) and to fairer competition within and between EU member states. The Hague also argues that the proposal should stay within the competences of the EU. For the Netherlands, which already has a relatively high minimum wage according to EU standards, not much needs to change. It is mainly a matter of which criteria should explicitly play a role in the consideration.