Around 3 million jobs have been created and employment has risen, pushing back poverty. However, unemployment remains high, with huge disparities across Member States. Labour markets and societies will need to adapt to new forms of work.
This year's Employment and Social Developments – or shortly, 'ESDE' - report focussed on employment as a means to tackle poverty, digitalisation and the changing world of work, the role of social dialogue, disparities among Member States and the integration of refugees in the labour market.
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, commented: "This annual Review shows that our efforts of the last years are bearing fruit. Our economies continue to create jobs, and households saw their disposable incomes increase. However, many people who work are still poor, which shows that it is not just about creating jobs, but about creating quality jobs. In addition, societies and labour markets are changing, due to new technologies and new forms of work. These bring new opportunities, but also new challenges, and we need to ensure that no one is left behind. With the European Pillar of Social Rights and new initiatives in the framework of our New Skills Agenda, we aim at tackling these challenges head on."
Employment on the rise, pushing back poverty
The number of Europeans in work was the highest ever measured, reaching 232 million. Last year, three million jobs have been created, most of them permanent. Full-time employment effectively protects people against poverty in most cases. The share of the EU population at risk of poverty or social exclusion (23.7 %) is the lowest in five years.
However, still 8.3% of the Europeans are unemployed (as recorded in October 2016), and the Review highlights how difficult it has been in the post-crisis years (2008-2013) to return to employment: only about one in eight unemployed people managed to find permanent full-time employment within three years. Youth unemployment, still above 20%, remains a major concern.
Changing world of work
The future of work is changing in a context of increasing digitalisation of the economy, notably through the emergence of digital platforms and the collaborative economy which will offer new work opportunities, mostly in the form of self-employment. ICT investment may have been responsible for one third of the EU's economic growth between 2005 and 2010, but many ICT vacancies remain unfilled. Investment in skills is crucial to reap the full benefits of digitalisation.
Convergence and divergence in the EU
There are encouraging signs of renewed convergence, after disparities had significantly increased following the deep recession of 2009. Yet major differences remain and labour markets and social protection policies and institutions across the EU performed very differently in the face of economic shocks.
Integration of refugees in societies and labour markets
In 2015 and the first nine months of 2016, almost 2.2 million asylum applications were submitted to Member States. However, refugees are facing obstacles when integrating into our labour markets, such as lower levels of education and insufficient language skills. Investing in their education and language skills, and facilitating the recognition of skills, will be key to facilitating the labour market integration of refugees. This will contribute to boosting the EU's human capital against the background of ageing societies.
Capacity building for social dialogue
As these new forms of employment can blur the distinction between employers and workers, new challenges arise for the role social partners and social dialogue can play in addressing today's labour market challenges. This ESDE review identifies the ways in which social partners can respond effectively to these challenges, by representing these new types of workers and employers and by working with public authorities. For example, in several Member States new forms of digital companies such as Uber and their affiliated workers are increasingly included as social partners members.
The ESDE review reports on the latest employment and social trends, and reflects on upcoming challenges and possible policy responses. This is the European Commission's main report to provide evidence and analysis and to review trends and upcoming challenges.
There are many concrete examples of how the Commission aims at addressing challenges raised in the yearly ESDE reports. A flagship initiative is the European Pillar of Social Rights, of which a final proposal will be put forward early next year, after the broad consultation launched in March 2016. Its main scopes are maximising employment chances, ensuring inclusive labour markets and societies and supporting renewed upwards convergence in the Eurozone and in the EU28 as a whole.
We will step up our efforts under the New Skills Agenda we launched in June 2016, in order to continue to invest in people's skills, enabling them to meet the demands of the labour market. This includes the launch of a Blueprint for Sectorial Cooperation on Skills is in the pipeline early next year. A 'Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals' is also to be launched in the first half of 2017 in this context. It will support early identification, visibility and recognition of skills and qualifications of asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants.
Finally, the Commission's efforts to decrease unemployment in general and youth unemployment in particular are bearing fruit. Since 2013, there are 1.6 million less young unemployed, and 900,000 fewer young people not in employment, education or training. With the prolongation of the Youth Guarantee, the financial top-up of the Youth Employment Initiative and the recently presented initiative to further Invest in Europe's Youth, the Commission aims at maximising young people's chances on the labour market.
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