Better work and life

EU Presidency conference on:

Better work and life: Towards an inclusive and competitive enlarged Union - 12-13 May 2003, Alexandroupolis, Greece

Co-organised by the Greek Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

Speech abstract - John Morley
Adviser to Director-General DG Employment and Social Affairs, European Commission

Quality in Employment and Social Policies

Summary of slide presentation

Quality has always been an underlying principle of EU social and employment policy, reflected in the Treaty in terms of high levels of employment and productivity, and rising living standards.

EU living standards have increased strongly and steadily over the past 40 years. But the gap with the US remains.

The gap in incomes per head of population, between the EU and US, is much greater than the gap per person employed. And the gap in hourly productivity is small.

The EU's low employment rate – still less than 65%, despite recent improvements, compared with over 75% in the US – is the main problem. Hence the focus in the Delors White Paper in 1992, and at the Lisbon European Council in 2000 and since.

The other contributory explanations for Europe's poorer performance are more 'acceptable' - shorter weekly hours of work in the EU, and longer holidays. Do these differences reflect conscious social choices in different cultures, or are they the result of different labour market and social systems?

The benefits of increased economic productivity and performance have been much more widely shared in the EU than they have in the US. Nevertheless the EU has job quality concerns – as the evidence on temporary work and part-time work shows.

Each Spring European Council provides the opportunity for the Union to assess progress in implementing its economic and employment policies, using key structural indicators – including on employment and social cohesion.

In addition, the European Employment Strategy now includes 10 sets of specific employment quality indicators, in addition to the quantitative targets.

A new Commission report on Quality at Work will be produced towards the end of this year.

* * *

Enlargement will increase the population and employment in the EU – but the biggest impact may be in terms of the number of new countries, and the qualitative challenges.

Gaps in terms of living standards are large between Accession Countries and existing EU Members. However, convergence is proceeding rapidly, and we expect it to continue.

The experience from past enlargements is also encouraging – see Portugal, Spain and Ireland. Although time lags can be long if policy actions are delayed.

Quality is an integral part of EU policy – linking economic, social and employment performance. The is the cornerstone of future policy development.

John Morley is Adviser to the Director-General of DG Employment in the European Commission, and closely associated with current EU-wide employment and social policy modernisation and reform initiatives. He is particularly concerned with economic questions related to these issues, and is responsible for the presentation of policy in speeches.

He was previously Head of the Employment Policy Unit which launched the Employment in Europe Reports and related EU initiatives, and was Head of the Employment Task Force which developed the employment dimension of the Commission's White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment.

He is an economist by education. Prior to joining the European Commission, he had worked in industry (ICI); as a journalist (Business Management); as a lecturer in economics (Nottingham University); and as an economic adviser to the UK government.

Last year he was appointed 'Special' Professor in the University of Nottingham Business School, and will re-join the University later this year.

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