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SMEs drive social progress despite new challenges

19 March 2019
by smeunited -- last modified 19 March 2019

SMEs are the main source of jobs and the main social driver in Europe despite substantial challenges.


The first one being skills shortages and mismatch with labour market needs, which hampers SMEs' productivity and growth. Labour markets are changing, due to technological advancement, greening, and ageing workforce.

In order to face all these changes, the labour markets need to be dynamic and adaptable, and well-designed welfare systems are highly necessary. Fostering employment and social inclusion is the basis for further economic success and social progress in Europe.

The best way to ensure good ownership and acceptance of required reforms in the field of employment, labour market and social protection systems is through strong social partners and a fruitful social dialogue at all levels.

"This week SMEunited's campaign for the European elections focuses on SMEs and the social dimension", announced SMEunited President Ulrike Rabmer-Koller. SMEs are, by far, the main source of jobs in Europe. They drive social progress and strongly contribute to social cohesion and inclusive labour markets at local level. However, Crafts and SMEs are suffering from skills and labour shortages due to a growing mismatch with the labour market needs.

"Skills shortages and adapting to digitalisation are the current biggest challenges for the majority of SMEs," she explained. "We call for more efforts at all levels to tackle upskilling and reskilling of a workforce that is lacking the necessary digital skills to remain on the labour market."

Furthermore, Ms Rabmer-Koller requested more commitments from the EU and national authorities to reinforce the capacity of social partners (in particular of those representing Crafts and SMEs in countries where social dialogue is less developed), and to reform and adapt national employment and social policies to new challenges.

Finally, SMEunited and its member organisations see the benefit of promoting more labour mobility and facilitate the integration of migrants and refugees into the labour markets.

SMEunited is the association of Crafts and SMEs in Europe with around 70 member organisations from over 30 European countries. SMEunited represents national cross-sectoral Craft and SME federations, European SME branch organisations and associate members. Combined, it represents more than 12 million enterprises with around 55 million employees across Europe. SMEunited is also a recognised employers' organisation and European Social Partner. SMEunited was formally known as UEAPME.

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