Jobs for Europe conference – conclusions by Commissioner László Andor
The urgent need for governments, EU institutions and the social partners to work together to resolve Europe’s employment and social crisis was underlined by László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the press conference concluding the Jobs for Europe Conference that took place in Brussels on 6-7 September.
“There is an urgent need to identify concrete measures and to put them into effect. The first step was the presentation of the Commission’s Employment Package last April. The conference yesterday and today was the next step – to raise awareness and build consensus on how best to put these measures into effect. I am therefore pleased to note a high level of consensus at the conference.
“Lack of demand for labour is clearly a real problem. Welfare-to-work programmes can be useful in ensuring that unemployed people remain active, but they also entail risks, especially when there are so few alternatives in the main labour market. Adapting skills to job market requirements is important, but will not get us far in the absence of measures to create jobs.
“This applies also to Greece, Ireland and Portugal, the so-called programme countries. Further reforms and adjustments are needed, but must be implemented in a socially sustainable way.
“Investment must be stepped up, especially in tradable sectors and in people’s skills. But crucially, job creation must be treated as a priority on its own because jobs create growth. Programme countries cannot simply wait for jobs to be created as a result of growth and external demand.
“Europe needs a youth guarantee – that young people will be in work, training or education within months of leaving school –especially in peripheral countries.
“Improving labour mobility within a genuine European labour market, so that people are equipped to go where the jobs are, is very important. But we need to remember that even if everybody should be able to move if they want to, people should not have to move to get a job.
“EU Cohesion Policy, and the European Social Fund within it, have a crucial role to play in investment to ensure economic development throughout Europe, so that job opportunities exist everywhere in Europe.
“Focusing more on boosting demand for labour of course doesn’t mean we forget the supply side. We need to step up investment in skills, and we need to improve work-life balance so that we really open the labour market to women and older workers.
“Local initiatives and mechanisms for enabling people to work are essential for a strong EU employment agenda. Many innovative solutions exist, such as the pooling of resources through employer alliances.
“Strengthening the social economy and community employment schemes that address local economic and social needs (notably in the green and health sectors) is indispensable for the future.
“So when we think about EMU 2.0 with a strong employment dimension, we should explore further the idea of boosting local employment through schemes inspired by the ambition of full employment, and by the notion that everybody should have a guarantee of opportunity.
“We also had interesting discussions on wages and in-work poverty. Everyone should have a wage that allows them to live above the poverty level.
“Moreover, it was stressed again that wage levels are just one of many factors of competitiveness – and that the key factors are qualitative: well-educated labour, R&D, innovation, quality of infrastructures. All these require investment.
“And I recall Professor Pissarides’ point that minimum wages not only help to ensure decent pay levels but also strengthen the supply of labour, especially among young people, as they represent a guarantee against exploitation.
“As regards EU governance, it was broadly acknowledged that we need to analyse wage developments in greater detail from a European perspective and to pay attention to the big macroeconomic picture.
“It is very important to do this in a transparent way, through exchanges of views with the social partners, and with full respect for the autonomy of social dialogue. This is certainly preferable to a scenario where pressure on wage levels and wage-setting systems would be exerted top-down and without justifications.
“The Commission is keen to work with social partners further on developing an EU tripartite format for monitoring wage developments, as proposed in the Employment Package.
“And I reiterate what President Barroso also emphasised yesterday: We need a strong employment and social dimension in the future EU budget, with a secure minimum budget for the European Social Fund, continuation of the EGF, and a re-born programme of aid for the most deprived.
“A strong EU employment agenda represents a pathway towards economic recovery and a way out of today’s social crisis. It’s not about adjustments in rules and numbers calculated from a desk in an ivory tower. It’s about implementing structural improvements; it’s about investment in people; it’s about social dialogue.
“We need to work together build this pathway. People from the EU institutions, governments, trade unions, employers, NGOs and academics, need to go away from this conference determined to put into practice, at every level, the concrete measures we have agreed upon here.”