The employment challenge requires more partnerships

Social partners, regions and cities need to be more involved in the EU employment policies if Europe is to reduce unemployment, was the message from Employment Week.  

The success in achieving the employment goals have been limited so far, and the arrival of 10 new members states in 2004, has not diminished the employment challenge for the EU. The Commission relaunched the Lisbon strategy in 2005, hoping to enhance national ownership of the process by challenging member states to produce national action plans.   

Antonis Kastrissianakis, director for Employment of the European Commission, stated that he was "encouraged" by the revised  Lisbon strategy and the national actions plans put forward by member states for the spring summit in March. He added that progress toward the employment goals in the Lisbon-strategy was "mixed" partly due to sluggish growth and a fall in labour  productivity. So even  if the EU has created "22 millions jobs. There is still a need for 70 million jobs," Kastrissianakis said, and urged greater cooperation to address the challenges ahead mainly on low employment and low productivity, which hit some EU regions in particular. Kastrissianakis also pointed to a problematic tendency in the labour market, which creates insider and  outsiders, where the first are "overly protected" and the latter "overly unprotected".

Henri Malosse, President of the Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship, Economic & Social Committee, made a passionate attack against the upholding of labour market restrictions vis-à-vis the new member states in seven of the "old" member states.  
He was particularly harsh on his home country: "The scare of the Polish plumber in France was shameful. I only know of a  Polish electrician, Lech Walesa, who helped bringing down communism." Malosse expressed his understanding of a disappointment among some citizens that "the EU has delivered anything concrete since the euro." He namely mentioned that the European nations are letting down the young generation by accepting a  persistently high youth unemployment. 

Gerhard Stahl, Secretary General of the Committee of the Regions, observed that even if economic differences in EU have been reduced at national level. However, with the EU enlargement differences at regional level have been increased. In this connection he mentioned that only 17 % of the regions were satisfied with the way they had been involved in the making of the national action plans.     
Stahl argued the need for a new partnership between EU institutions, member states, regions and the social partners, which  should lead to a "Europe of proximity", with decisions taken closer to the citizens.    

Kent Andersson, deputy mayor of Malmö, Sweden, and president of the Eurocities Social Committee, argued the need for a new "procedural thinking" allowing cities to be recognised as actors in the employment policy process, because "cities drive growth and jobs both in the cities and beyond". 

Calling Europe's 18 millions unemployed a "tragedy", Umberto Paolucci, senior chairman of Microsoft  EMEA, argued for enhancing the "employability" of the workforce through upgrading of skills in a "chain of innovation from the top till the bottom skills" and closer cooperation between governments and business.

EURACTIV publisher Christophe Leclercq, who chaired opening session on "Growth and Jobs in the New Enlarged Europe", observed that there is no subject more important for Europe than jobs, and that they are created, not by EU institutions, but by businesses. 
            

The 13th "Employment Week" in Brussels, 16-18 May, is centred on the theme "Working together for growth and jobs". Both policy makers, NG0's and practitioners will be meeting to discuss trends and policies in European employment. Among the  discussion items are the following themes:

  • Is the new, enlarged, EU creating the kind of jobs that will ensure growth and prosperity in the expanding global economy?
  •  How well are companies and workers adapting to change? Is Europe moving towards a better work-life balance? Are we  developing the right workforce skills to ensure continued competitiveness?
  • How successful are we in building partnerships, promoting mobility, addressing demographic and social challenges, and  creating the jobs of the future?

 

The 1997 Luxemburg Jobs Summit launched the idea of a European Employment Strategy. This strategy has three objectives: achieving full employment, increasing productivity and quality at work, and promoting cohesion.

In response to the twin challenges of globalisation and demographic changes (ageing population), the European Council in Lisbon set ambitious employment targets:

  • an overall employment rate of 70% in 2010 (67% in 2005); 
  • a female employment rate of 60% in 2010 (57% in 2005);
  • an older workers (55+) employment rate of 50% in 2010.

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