Flanders finalises contribution to Belgian national jobs plan

In March 1998, the regional government of Flanders finalised its contribution to the Belgian national employment action plan to be submitted to the Cardiff European Council meeting in June 1998.

The EU Member States have been drawing up national employment action plans based on the EU Guidelines for Member States' employment policies 1998, following the Luxembourg"employment summit" in November 1997 (EU9711168F). The plans are due to be submitted by 15 April 1998 for consideration at the Cardiff European Council in June 1998. The subsidiarity principle is a key feature of the guidelines both at European and at national and regional levels and because of this subsidiary principle the government of Flanders and the Flemish social partners - like their counterparts in Wallonia (BE9803135F) and the Brussels-Capital region (BE9803136N) - are making their own contributions to the Belgian action plan.

The Flemish contribution, finalised in March 1998, focuses in particular on training. Essentially, the accent is placed on improving employability in the labour market, and efforts are directed in the first instance towards counselling unemployed people.

A specific offer of training or work will be made to young people aged under 25 by the time they have been unemployed for six months; the same applies to those over 25, although they must have been unemployed for at least 12 months. Under the EU guidelines, this measure should cover at least 20% of job seekers. Over a five-year period, attempts will be made to reach 40,000 young people and 45,000 adults. Insofar as scope is concerned, this means an almost eight-fold increase on current figures with respect to young job-seekers and a trebling with respect to adult job-seekers. It therefore represents a major project on the part of the region. However, it must be borne in mind that, according to recent figures, unemployment among Flemish young people, at 12.5%, is well below the European (21.2%) and Belgian (21.5%) averages.

The development of entrepreneurship will be promoted through the introduction of guarantees against new risk capital for small and medium-sized enterprises and a new innovations policy.

Equal opportunities policy will be reinforced for specific target groups including: women - with particular attention focused on childcare and the problems of women returning to work and those employed in economically disadvantaged sectors; people with disabilities - through career counselling; and immigrants - with particular emphasis on the importance of language instruction.

Funding has been arranged: a total of BEF 3,250 billion is being provided over the next three years. This also includes BEF 600 million which has already been released for training in the non-profit making sector.

The strategy of the government of Flanders and the social partners therefore mainly reflects a refinement of existing programmes and a consolidation of their provisions. This is translated into a greater focus on all forms of education, training, training placements, courses and work experience schemes, backed by increased resources.

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