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SPEECH/ 11/796

Mr. László ANDOR

EU Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

"Boosting job creation and addressing the social consequences of the crisis"

Annual Growth Survey - Press Conference

Brussels, 23 November 2011

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first of all stress the points made by the President and Vice-President Rehn on the importance of this second Annual Growth Survey.

Europe is going through a very difficult period. We must provide a convincing response to the crisis. Yet the need for fiscal consolidation is limiting Member States' room for manoeuvre to introduce new stimulus programmes.

The fragile nature of the financial sector is also undermining confidence and the economy's general capacity to invest and create new and better jobs.

The persistently high rate of unemployment in the EU and the signs of a growing number of people at risk of poverty require determined action by both the EU and its Member States.

The prolongation of the economic crisis is generating lasting negative impacts on the labour market. Today more than 40% of EU unemployment is long-term.

Those hit hardest by unemployment and economic inactivity risk losing their skills and leaving the labour market. Our focus must be on making sure they maintain their links with the labour market.

This year's annual Growth Survey specifically emphasises the need to address the unacceptable situation of young people.

Over the past three years, youth unemployment has risen sharply from 15% to 21%. The share of all 18-24 year olds neither in education, employment or training has also increased. It is our duty to ensure that Europe does not lose an entire generation due to this crisis.

The current environment of jobless growth combined with a bleak economic outlook requires, more than ever before, a reinforced focus on growth and concrete measures to boost jobs.

This means moving beyond the "short-term only approach" and looking at the "long-term challenges" as well as the structural sources of growth and job creation.

That is why the Annual Growth Survey identifies the key labour market reforms for Member States, based on the analytical work in the draft Joint Employment Report. These are:

First: to establish comprehensive youth employment strategies by identifying the most urgent needs and actions. It is particularly important to commit to initiatives that combine education and job experience, such as apprenticeships and traineeships. And the social partners need to be on board to make these happen.

In 2012, we will see the first youngsters take up the Your First EURES job programme.

Second: to promote business creation by better supporting self-employment and entrepreneurship, including a greater role for social entrepreneurship.

The Commission's recent proposal for a Social Business Initiative will support efforts to develop social entrepreneurship in terms of capacity building, networking, mobilising private and public funds and integrating social enterprises into employment and social inclusion measures.

The new EU microfinance facility is up and running in several Member States providing loans to micro-entrepreneurs having trouble accessing credit.

Shifting the tax burden away from labour and combating undeclared work also remain key to promoting hiring.

Third: to reinforce the coverage and effectiveness of employment services and active labour market policies, making them more cost-effective and targeted.

There is a real need for partnerships between key local stakeholders who can provide re-training and work experience targeted at the long-term unemployed.

Fourth, to ensure - despite the challenging fiscal environment - that social protection systems continue to act as effective buffers against poverty and social exclusion.

We need to protect the most vulnerable groups against the negative redistributive effects of the economic crisis and fiscal consolidation plans.

The upcoming White Paper on pensions will set out a broad common EU vision for adequate, sustainable and safe pensions.

And finally, we cannot forget that, in an increasingly knowledge-intensive economy, our long-term growth potential will be determined by the skills of our workers.

That is why modernising education and training systems must become an absolute priority.

Let's be clear, in the area of employment and social affairs, the main responsibility lies with Member States.

But the crisis has made action at EU level even more relevant. This is why, next year, we will:

  • Launch an employment package that will provide further ideas on how to reform our labour markets and how to make a better use of EU labour market instruments – such as EURES;

  • Fast-track and give concrete shape to the Youth Opportunities initiative outlined by President Barroso;

  • We will work with Member States to mobilise the ESF further to ensure that remaining available resources address these priorities;

  • And we will work with the Employment Committee and the Employment and Social Affairs Council of Ministers to reinforce efforts and learn from good practices.

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