The EU project Improving Measurement of Public Support to Personal and Household Services (IMPact) was launched in 2014 to create a common and comprehensive EU guide to help Member States assess and monitor the macro-economic effects of their PHS-supporting measures. PHS were defined in 2012 by the European Commission as “activities that contribute to well-being at home of families and individuals”, among which “childcare, long-term care for the elderly and persons with disabilities”

Job creation

In a context where job creation and the improvement of employment rates are at the core of the European Commission’s social and economic priorities (see for example our article on the Annual Convention and on the European Semester process), speakers/participants at the meeting emphasised the potential of PHS fostering employment in the social care sector. As underlined by Nicholas Costello, deputy head of the European Commission’s Unit working on job creation, there are a potential 5.5 million jobs that could be created in the PHS sector. This could contribute to multiple objectives and lead to “social progress for everyone”. Improvements may include:

  • enhancing working conditions, social protection and rights
  • improving personalisation and quality support and wellbeing for users and family carers, an aspect that was somehow overlooked in the report
  • improving opportunities for family carers, particularly women, to take up employment
  • for governments, retrieving tax revenues once lost to the shadow economy
  • increasing tax revenue from employment that moves from the informal to the formal economy. For instance, Jean-Francois Lebrun, from the French Ministry of Finance, emphasised the success of the measures taken in France to combat undeclared work, which, according to him, helped reduced undeclared work in PHS from 75% in 1980 to 25% in 2015.
Online interactive guide for local authorities

When accessing the guide, the user is invited to choose between designing a new PHS policy and assessing an existing policy. They are then taken through five steps – definition of PHS, framework for PHS, policy objectives, types of PHS policies and measures, PHS monitoring – each divided into thematic reports. The guide addresses PHS policies’ potential for net job creation, sustainability, level of public investment needed and its return. It also takes into account other important dimensions such as cultural backgrounds or even ideology underlying social services in general and PHS in particular. Useful could be the last part on monitoring, as it foresees indicators and data collection. However, the qualitative aspect of this monitoring could be strengthened – as it stands, the only indicator used to assess the quality of care for children, older people and people with disabilities is the “satisfaction” of parents and users.

The guide is more theoretical than practical and interactive, and it remains to be seen how this guide will be implemented by the target group – local authorities. This was rightly pointed out by Dirk Jarré, member of the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) consultative committee on industrial change. For this project to be truly useful, it seems crucial that the guide is tested out by public authorities and social services at local level with the aim to gather feedback about its usefulness and potential usability.