Report: ‘Employment on the rise in Europe’

Commission reports give a positive assessment of employment in the EU member states, but challenges remain to improve social inclusion. 

According to the Commission’s Joint Employment Report, published on 19 February 2007, “unemployment in the EU-25 fell from 9.1% in 2004 to 8.8% in 2005 and employment rose by 0.8% in 2005 – the largest increase since 2001.

However, the report also states that “a further 22 million new jobs must still be created to reach the EU’s 2010 employment targets”.

The document also points to an upward investment in education and skills, but criticises that policies to improve adaptability are lagging behind.

The report on employment is complemented by the Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion. The report underlines the “need for progress in the areas of child poverty, active inclusion, the modernisation of pension provision and access to healthcare”.

The report states that in 2004, 16% of EU citizens lived at a poverty level defined as 60% of their country’s average income, which might keep them from fully participating in society. The poverty rate ranged from 9-10% in Sweden and the Czech Republic to 21% in Lithuania and Poland.

Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said: "Labour- market reforms are bearing fruit, but if Europe is to respond seriously and effectively to the challenges of globalisation and a rapidly shrinking working population, flexicurity must be the order of the day."

Thérèse de Liedekerke, director for social affairs with the European employers association BusinessEurope told EURACTIV that labour-market reforms were starting to bear fruit. 

"At the same time it is important not to repeat the mistakes of the 90s, where improved indicators led to a stall of reforms." Liederkerke insisted that "the reasons for continued reforms remain" and pointed out that productivity growth was a concern. She said that BusinessEurope gives strong support to the Commission's concept of flexicurity.

On the issue of flexicurity, the Social Platform, a group of European social NGO's, states that "workers need clear security mechanisms in place before any additional flexibility is requested from them".

The employment report looks at the member states' reform programmes, with regard to the priorities laid out in 2000 under the Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs.

The European Employment Strategy as part of the Lisbon Agenda aims to create more and better jobs and greater social cohesion. In 2000, EU leaders set the target to raise employment to 70% by 2010.

  • On 22 February 2007 the Joint Reports on Employment and Social Inclusion are to be adopted by ministers at the Employment and Social Affairs Council, which will formulate specific recommendations for member states.
  • A Commission communication on flexicurity is planned for summer 2007.
  • The two reports will feed into the Spring Summit of EU leaders on 8-9 March 2007 contributing to the jobs and growth package.

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