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European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Youth guarantee, Social Investment Package and Free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania
Press conference, EU Council of Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs
Brussels, 28 February 2013
I am very pleased that the Council has approved the Recommendation on the Youth Guarantee. This is a great step forward for Europe's young people and should help to revive confidence in Social Europe. This Recommendation, proposed by the Commission last December, urges Member States to introduce the Youth Guarantee to ensure that all young people up to age 25 receive a quality offer of a job, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education.
It is now crucially important that Member States urgently put in place measures to make the Youth Guarantee a reality and so get young people into work.
The Commission is ready and willing to make available substantial financial contributions from the European Social Fund and other EU structural funds. Investment in Youth Guarantee schemes is crucial expenditure to avoid more serious economic and social problems in the future. It is also important to highlight the € 6 billion Youth Employment Initiatives agreed by the European Council in early February. We will continue to work on taking forward the other proposals and actions in the Youth Employment Package on mobility and apprenticeship.
The economic cost of not integrating young people into labour market has been estimated at over €150 billion per year, or 1.2% of EU GDP by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. Avoiding this cost now and in the future outweighs by far the cost of the proposed Youth Guarantee.
Social Investment Package
Today I presented the Social Investment Package adopted by the Commission on 20 February to the Council. I explained that the Package is grounded in the idea that modernising welfare states plays an important role in reducing inequality and poverty, boosting economic competitiveness and fostering growth.
The Social Investment Package urges Member States to shift their focus to investment in human capital and social cohesion. This can make a real difference if we want to make real progress towards the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy. Social investment is about 'preparing' rather than 'repairing'. It helps people to adapt to societal challenges such as a changing labour market and helps people to avoid hardship such as falling into poverty or losing their homes. Social Investment today helps to prevent Member States having to pay much higher financial and social bills tomorrow.
The Package also includes a Commission Recommendation against child poverty, calling for an integrated approach to child-friendly social investment. Investing in children and young people is especially effective in breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty and social exclusion and improving people's opportunities later in life.
The urgent need for such an approach has been underlined by the latest Eurostat figures on child poverty – not less than 27% of children under 18 in the EU were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2011.
The Social Investment Package feeds into our work for the upcoming European Semesters as part of the Europe 2020 process.
The Package also offers guidance to Member States on how best to use EU financial support, notably from the European Social Fund, to implement the outlined objectives.
Free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania
Later this afternoon I will brief the Council on the free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania.
Free movement of workers is a fundamental principle of the Single Market and indeed of the European Union. It brings very considerable benefits to the individuals concerned, and to the economies of both the host and home countries.
Derogations from this principle must be very strictly limited in time. The remaining restrictions on the free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania will end on 31st December 2013 and no Member State can unilaterally extend these restrictions beyond the end of this year.