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Brussels, 8 September 1999

Employment Package II: Commission adopts Employment Guidelines for 2000

The European Commission has adopted a Communication presenting its proposals for the Guidelines for Member States' employment policies in 2000. The present 4-pillar structure of the Employment Guidelines employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities is retained as it has proved to be a good basis for the integrated, medium-term approach which is represented by the European Employment Strategy. The value of this approach has also been recently acknowledged outside the European Union (EU), namely in the G7 context. For the sake of consistency and continuity of efforts and to take account of Member States' views, changes to the 2000 Employment Guidelines were kept to a minimum. Therefore, instead of proposing new guidelines, the Commission proposes a limited number of adjustments in the following areas: making the preventive approach more concrete; promoting access to Internet and the acquisition of skills in information technologies at school; stressing the need for social partners' involvement in modernising work organisation; emphasing the role of public employment services in job creation at local level; stressing the need to support active ageing and re-integration into the labour market.

The Guidelines for 2000 (see annex for full text) draw on the draft Joint Employment Report also adopted today by the Commission, and in particular on its conclusions regarding the assessment and analysis of policies undertaken by the Member States in their National Action Plans. They make continuity an essential condition for ensuring that the Member States and social partners deliver fully on their commitment to the Luxembourg process and that further progress is made in exploiting the growth potential of the EU economy, to improve the employment rate and to curb unemployment. The adjustments made to the existing guidelines are:

  • Making the preventive approach more concrete: this approach is at the core of the strategy. This approach requires early intervention at individual level and its aim must be the rapid and effective integration of the unemployed into the labour market. A clarification of the aim is therefore added to the corresponding guidelines.

  • Promoting access to Internet and the acquisition of skills in Information Technologies at school: in line with the Commission's communication on job opportunities in the Information Society and with the importance given by Member States to improving Information Technologies skills, a new emphasis is put on the acquisition of those skills through initial education and training and on the development of computer equipment and access to Internet in schools.

  • Stressing the need for social partners' involvement in modernising work organisation: the adjustment proposed draws on the recent European debate on modernising work organisation, in particular, the Commission's Communication of November 1998(1) and takes account of social partners' willingness to engage in a joint process for modernising work organisation.

  • Emphasing the role of public employment services in job creation at local level: an additional reference is needed to take into account the increasing role of public employment services in that regard(2).

  • Stressing the need to support active ageing and re-integration into the labour market: a new accent is put on the role of benefit, tax and training systems in maintaining older workers in working life. Their role in addressing the problems faced by men and women returning to the labour market is also underlined in the introduction added to the corresponding guideline.

Several lesser changes to clarify the scope or interpretation of some guidelines are also suggested.


Following the agreement at the Amsterdam Summit in June 1997 to anticipate the application of the Employment Title in the new Treaty, the extraordinary European Council in Luxembourg in November 1997 endorsed a co-ordinated strategy for employment and approved the first set of Guidelines for Member States' Employment policies for 1998. Member States integrated them in National Action Plans (NAPs) which they submitted for the first time in April 1998. The Commission examined what Member States had committed themselves to doing and whether these commitments were in line with the Employment Guidelines and submitted a report to the Cardiff Council. The Cardiff Council urged Member States to report on the practical implementation of their NAPs. The assessment was presented in the draft Joint Employment report for 1998 that the Commission submitted to the Vienna Council together with the Employment Guidelines for 1999. To consolidate the process, changes brought to the 1999 Guidelines were kept to a minimum, however, a few new guidelines were added. The Vienna Council endorsed the Joint Employment report and welcomed the proposals for Employment Guidelines. It was also decided that Member States would present only one national implementation report by June 1999 presenting both the concrete implementation of measures and policies announced in their 1998 NAP and its updating to take account of the new Guidelines.

These reports were submitted by early June this year and, in accordance with agreed procedures, the Commission is now submitting its draft Joint Employment Report containing the assessment of the measures taken by the Member States under the Guidelines, for the Helsinki European Council in December 1999.



(Text in bold shows changes compared with 1999 guidelines)


Tackling youth unemployment and preventing long-term unemployment

In order to influence the trend in youth and long-term unemployment the Member States will intensify their efforts to develop preventive and employability-oriented strategies, building on the early identification of individual needs; within a period to be determined by each Member State which may not exceed three years and which may be longer in Member States with particularly high unemployment, Member States will ensure that:

    1. every unemployed young person is offered a new start before reaching six months of unemployment, in the form of training, retraining, work practice, a job or other employability measure with a view to effective integration into the labour market;

    2. unemployed adults are also offered a fresh start before reaching twelve months of unemployment by one of the aforementioned means or, more generally, by accompanying individual vocational guidance with a view to effective integration into the labour market.

These preventive and employability measures should be combined with measures to promote the re-employment of the long-term unemployed.

Transition from passive measures to active measures

Benefit, tax and training systems - where that proves necessary - must be reviewed and adapted to ensure that they actively support employability. Each Member State:

    3. will endeavour to increase significantly the number of persons benefiting from active measures to improve their employability. In order to increase the numbers of unemployed who are offered training or any similar measure, it will in particular fix a target, in the light of its starting situation, of gradually achieving the average of the three most successful Member States, and at least 20%;

    4. will review and, where appropriate, refocus its benefit and tax system to provide incentives for unemployed or inactive people to seek and take up work or measures to enhance their employability and for employers to create new jobs, and to develop a policy for active ageing, encompassing appropriate measures such as maintaining working capacity, lifelong learning and other flexible working arrangements, so that older workers are also able to remain and participate actively in working life.

Encouraging a partnership approach

The actions of the Member States alone will not suffice to achieve the desired results in promoting employability. Consequently:

    5. The social partners are urged, at their various levels of responsibility and action, to conclude as soon as possible agreements with a view to increasing the possibilities for training, work experience, traineeships or other measures likely to promote employability of the young and adult unemployed and to promote entry into the labour market.

    6. In order to reinforce the development of a skilled and adaptable workforce, both Member States and the social partners will endeavour to develop possibilities for lifelong learning, particularly in the fields of information and communication technologies, and each Member State will set a target according to national circumstances for participants benefiting from such measures. Easy access for older workers will be particularly important.

Easing the transition from school to work

Employment prospects are poor for young people who leave the school system without having acquired the aptitudes required for entering the job market. Member States will therefore:

    7. improve the quality of their school systems in order to reduce substantially the number of young people who drop out of the school system early. Particular attention should also be given to young people with learning difficulties.

    8. make sure they equip young people with greater ability to adapt to technological and economic changes and with skills relevant to the labour market. Particular attention should be given to the development and modernisation of apprenticeship systems, to developing appropriate training for the acquisition of computer literacy and skills by students and teachers as well as to equipping schools with computer equipment and facilitating student access to the Internet by the end of 2002.

Promoting a labour market open to all

Many groups and individuals experience particular difficulties in acquiring relevant skills and in gaining access to, and remaining in, the labour market. A coherent set of policies promoting the integration of such groups and individuals into the world of work and combating discrimination is called for. Each Member State will:

    9. give special attention to the needs of the disabled, ethnic minorities and other groups and individuals who may be disadvantaged, and develop appropriate forms of preventive and active policies to promote their integration into the labour market.


Making it easier to start up and run businesses

The development of new enterprises, and the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is essential for job creation and for the expansion of training opportunities for young people. This process must be promoted by encouraging greater entrepreneurial awareness across society and in educational curricula, by providing a clear, stable and predictable set of rules, by improving the conditions for the development of risk capital markets and access to the stock market. The Member States should also reduce and simplify the administrative and tax burdens on SMEs. These policies will support Member States´ attempts to tackle undeclared work. To that end the Member States will:

    10.give particular attention to reducing significantly the overhead costs and administrative burdens for businesses, and especially SMEs, in particular when an enterprise is being set up and when hiring additional workers;

    11.encourage the development of self-employment by examining, with the aim of reducing, any obstacles which may exist, especially those within tax and social security regimes, to moving to self-employment and the setting up of small businesses as well as by promoting training for entrepreneurship and targeted support services for entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs.

Exploiting new opportunities for job creation

If the European Union wants to deal successfully with the employment challenge, all possible sources of jobs and new technologies and innovations must be exploited effectively. To that end the Member States will:

    12.promote measures to exploit fully the possibilities offered by job creation at local level and in the social economy, especially in new activities linked to needs not yet satisfied by the market, and examine, with the aim of reducing, any obstacles in the way of such measures. In this respect, the special role and responsibility of partners at the regional and local levels, as well as the social partners, needs to be more fully recognised and supported. In addition, the role of the Public Employment Services in identifying local employment opportunities and improving the functioning of local labour markets, should be fully exploited.

    13.develop framework conditions to fully exploit the employment potential of the services sector and industry-related services, inter alia by tapping the employment potential of the information society and the environmental sector, to create more and better jobs.

Making the taxation system more employment friendly

and reversing the long-term trend towards higher taxes and charges on labour (which have increased from 35% in 1980 to more than 42% in 1995). Each Member State will:

    14.set a target, if necessary and taking account of its present level, for gradually reducing the overall tax burden and, where appropriate, a target for gradually reducing the fiscal pressure on labour and non-wage labour costs, in particular on relatively unskilled and low-paid labour, without jeopardising the recovery of public finances or the financial equilibrium of social security schemes. It will examine, if appropriate, the desirability of introducing a tax on energy or on pollutant emissions or any other tax measure.

    15.examine, without obligation, the Commission's proposal for reducing the rate of VAT on labour-intensive services not exposed to cross-border competition.


    Modernising work organisation

In order to promote the modernisation of work organisation and forms of work, a strong partnership should be developed at all appropriate levels (European, national, sectoral, local and enterprise levels):

    16.the social partners are urged to agree and implement a process in order to modernise the organisation of work, including flexible working arrangements, with the aim of making undertakings productive and competitive and achieving the required balance between flexibility and security. Subjects to be covered may, for example, include training and re-training, the introduction of new technologies, new forms of work and working time issues such as the expression of working time as an annual figure, the reduction of working hours, the reduction of overtime, the development of part-time working, and access to training and career breaks.

    17.for its part, each Member State will examine the possibility of incorporating in its law more adaptable types of contract, taking into account the fact that forms of employment are increasingly diverse. Those working under contracts of this kind should at the same time enjoy adequate security and higher occupational status, compatible with the needs of business.

Support adaptability in enterprises

In order to renew skill levels within enterprises Member States will: the obstacles, in particular tax obstacles, to investment in human resources and possibly provide for tax or other incentives for the development of in-house training; they will also examine new regulations and review the existing regulatory framework to make sure they will contribute to reducing barriers to employment and helping the labour market adapt to structural change in the economy.


    Gender mainstreaming approach

Women still have particular problems in gaining access to the employment market, in career advancement, in earnings and in reconciling professional and family life. It is therefore important, inter alia:

  • to ensure that active labour market policies are made available for women in proportion to their share of unemployment;

  • to reduce tax-benefit disincentives, wherever identified, because of their negative effects on the female labour supply;

  • to give particular attention to obstacles which hinder women who wish to set up new businesses or become self-employed;

  • to ensure that women are able to benefit positively from flexible forms of work organisation.

Therefore, the Member States will:

    19.adopt a gender-mainstreaming approach in implementing the Guidelines of all four pillars. In order meaningfully to evaluate progress on this approach, Member States will need to provide for adequate data collection systems and procedures.

Tackling gender gaps

Member States and the social partners should translate their desire to promote equality of opportunity into increased employment rates for women. They should also pay attention to the imbalance in the representation of women or men in certain economic sectors and occupations, as well as to the improvement of female career opportunities. Member States will:

    20.attempt to reduce the gap in unemployment rates between women and men by actively supporting the increased employment of women and will take action to bring about a balanced representation of women and men in all sectors and occupations. They will initiate positive steps to promote equal pay for equal work or work of equal value and to diminish differentials in incomes between women and men. In order to reduce gender gaps, Member States will also consider an increased use of measures for the advancement of women.

Reconciling work and family life

Policies on career breaks, parental leave and part-time work, as well as flexible working arrangements which serve the interests of both employers and employees, are of particular importance to women and men. Implementation of the various Directives and social-partner agreements in this area should be accelerated and monitored regularly. There must be an adequate provision of good quality care for children and other dependants in order to support women's and men's entry and continued participation in the labour market. An equal sharing of family responsibilities is crucial in this respect. In order to strengthen equal opportunities, Member States and the social partners will:, implement and promote family-friendly policies, including affordable, accessible and high quality care services for children and other dependants, as well as parental and other leave schemes.

Facilitating reintegration into the labour market

Those returning to the labour market after an absence may have outmoded skills and experience difficulty in gaining access to training. Moreover, tax and benefit systems may interact to reduce the incentives to return.

The Member States will:

    22.give specific attention to women, and men, considering a return to the paid workforce after an absence and, to that end, they will examine the means of gradually eliminating the obstacles in the way of such return.

    (1) "Modernising the organisation of work A positive approach to change" Com(98)592

    (2)"Modernising Public Employment services to support the European Employment Stratregy" Com(98)641

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