The cleaning sector as a vector for job creation

2nd of November 2021
The cleaning sector as a vector for job creation

With more than 4.2 million employees across Europe, the cleaning sector needs the right tools to support its efforts to guarantee flexibility, safety, adequate training and recognition of their work. The pandemic has put our sector in the spotlight, and the EFCI and its members have worked to support the industry in its efforts to continue providing its essential services.

With an average 80 per cent of the total costs of cleaning companies directly linked to labour costs, the effect of changes in social legislation are central to our sector. In this sense, recent developments at national and European levels are representing a challenge for us as employers. This is why we advocate ensuring the role of the sector as a vector for recovery and employment creation is not undermined by the creation of red tape or the questioning of the role of social partners in collective bargaining. In this article, we would like to briefly discuss some of these measures and the recent advocacy work of the EFCI.

Pay transparency legislation and the gender pay gap

In early 2020, the European Commission presented the initiative ‘Gender pay gap – transparency on pay for men and women’, which, in the shape of a directive, aims at supporting the end of the gender-based pay discrimination in Europe to reduce the gender pay gap. While sharing the objectives of this initiative, which would already have very reduced impact in sectors like ours, in which salaries are determined transparently through collective bargaining, we believe it is not the right tool to achieve the final objective.

The Commission’s proposal contains measures that would fall on the shoulders of employers, such as the obligation for companies with more than 250 employees to report on pay gap or the shift of burden of proof to employers, which can be expected to increase the number of court cases. The EFCI, together with other employers’ associations, believes binding legislations on pay transparency will not address the root causes of the wage gap, and will to the contrary generate additional costs and administrative burden for employers.

The Commission’s proposal for an EU Directive on minimum wage

The proposal for an EU directive on minimum wages is a central legislative initiative of the current European Commission. The proposal was presented at the beginning of 2020, and it is now being debated at the European Parliament and at the Council. All employer associations in Europe, including the EFCI, and even some trade unions, strongly advocate modifying the scope and the main elements of the proposal. Indeed, the proposal intends to enforce elements that until now have been in the hands of the social partner organisations of all levels.

The proposal opens the door for political interference in wage-setting mechanisms and lacks the necessary sectoral perspective. In EFCI’s view, it is a blunt instrument that should have been preceded by a strong focus on capacity building at cross-sectoral and sectoral level and an increased effort in the fight against undeclared work.

Moreover, from our sectoral perspective, measures to level minimum wages across Europe need to be accompanied by a decided shift from price to quality in public procurement. Besides, when minimum wages are increased during the life of contracts, in many EU countries it is employers who bear the costs of these increases.

A call from employers for special attention to diverse and adaptable forms of work

The EFCI, together with other major services employers, recently called on policy makers for a new approach towards recognising the contribution of diverse forms of work to job creation and social inclusion. In particular, the statement highlighted the need to promote them as a stepping stone into the labour market, to ensure social protection in all forms of work and to fully include diverse and adaptable forms of work in collective bargaining.

An essential sector called to continue growing

Despite Covid-19, research conducted by the EFCI shows the European cleaning industry continues to transform itself as the pandemic seems to wane. This is now an industry of nearly 300,000 companies across Europe, employing 4.2 million people and generating €120 billion in turnover. It has grown by nine per cent over the last 25 years, an outstanding success.

This data was presented during the opening session of our recent Online Week as part of EFCI’s 2021 sectoral data report, created following major statistical research on the impact of Covid-19.
Against this background, and to ensure the sector continues to be a vector for employment, it is as important as ever that it remains united in calling for recognition of our essential role. Public institutions need to translate this into fairer contracting practices and into the creation of a real level playing field for companies. Our sector is ready to continue creating jobs, and we need the complicity of all our stakeholders to continue being able to do so.


Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited