I am happy to present today the latest review of Employment and Social Developments in Europe.
Let me share with you the key findings. First, the good news – I would like to start with some positive developments observed in the last year:
- Unemployment has continued to decrease. The economic recovery continued and employment has continued to increase for most sectors and for all age groups.
- Permanent and full-time jobs have also increased.
- There are more women, and people aged over 50 working.
- More young people are back in jobs or engaged in education and training – our actions in the fight against youth unemployment are beginning to bear fruit.
- And last but not least: Households have benefited from a rise in their disposable income.
Despite these improvements, the effects of the crisis are still being felt. Even more worrying, our review reveals that the crisis has widened the disparities across and within EU countries.
- Employment rates vary tremendously, from just 55% in Greece to 81% in Sweden.
- Although unemployment has decreased in the countries hit hardest by the crisis, unemployment rates are still over 20% in Spain and Greece. By contrast, for Germany it is as low as 5%.
- The large scale use of temporary contracts does not always lead to permanent contracts. In some countries like Cyprus, close to 95% of all temporary contracts are involuntary, while in Austria they are only around 9%
The situation is particularly worrying for disadvantaged groups, again with broad disparities by countries:
- Youth unemployment is still over 40% in Greece, Croatia and Italy.
- The employment rate of older workers is only 34% in Greece, while it reaches 74% in Sweden.
- And there remains a significant gap in employment between men and women.
In short, divergence between EU Member States has further increased. These disparities are unacceptable because they hamper growth and erode the confidence of people in a truly 'social' Europe.
This year's analysis serves as a compass to create the quality jobs and inclusive growth that people in Europe so much need. Allow me to focus on what I believe are the key issues.
First, the importance of labour and social legislation for job creation. This year's report documents growing labour market segmentation, leading to an uneven distribution of jobs opportunities and more precarious lives for some of our citizens. To address these changes in the world of work, the European Commission is proposing to bring forward a European Pillar of Social Rights. This will be a reference framework based on the values and principles that mark the essence of the 21st century social market economy. It should make our labour markets and the European social market economy more resilient and ensure that we can achieve both flexibility and security in a fast-changing world. In this context we are working on a wider review of our occupational health and safety legislation as well as ways to improve people's work-life balance and women's participation in the labour market.
Second, the need to invest in and make better use of EU’s workforce. Despite high unemployment, many employers report difficulties in recruiting staff with the right skills.The EU must therefore address skills mismatches. We need to better anticipate the needs of employers and make better use of existing skills. The Commission will propose a New Skills Agenda for Europe later this year to help close the skills gap. At the same time, mobility of workers within the EU can ensure a better use of skills and knowledge. Labour mobility has helped reduce unemployment in some countries, while filling vacancies in others, and contributes positively to growth. However, mobility remains limited, with only 4% of people born in the EU living in another Member State. Our labour mobility proposal currently in preparation seeks to broaden opportunities for all while ensuring the rules are clear, fair and enforceable.
And let me come to the final third point, the crucial role of social dialogue for achieving inclusive recovery. It is clear that the challenges ahead present a joint mission with concerted efforts al levels: European, national, regional and mobilising our social partners.
To conclude, the 2015 review of Employment and Social Developments demonstrates an urgent need to increase our efforts to return to convergence, both economic and social. Instead of drifting apart, we need to grow together in Europe. The Commission is committed to this goal. Jobs and Growth remain our number one priority. Following recent initiatives on the integration of the long-term unemployed, the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative, this year we will take forward work on proposals for a European Pillar of Social Rights, on labour mobility and on skills. We will continue working side by side with the social partners to achieve an inclusive recovery. There is much more work to do, but I am absolutely determined to make a “social triple A” for Europe a reality.
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