EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Access to employment

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Access to employment refers to the opportunity for a person to enter into employment, either for themselves or for others.

Access to employment is regulated in the EU by a variety of measures aimed at promoting the free movement of workers (Article 45 TFEU), and achieving a ‘high level of employment’ (Article 3 TFEU). The mechanisms include the European Employment Strategy (Articles 145-150 TFEU), and the prohibition of discrimination in access to employment on numerous grounds including nationality, sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation.

These and other related entitlements are laid down in Article 15 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: ‘Everyone has the right to engage in work, and to pursue a freely chosen or accepted occupation’, and ‘Every citizen of the Union has the freedom to seek employment, to work, to exercise the right of establishment and to provide services in any Member State.’

The Commission’s Social Policy Agenda 2000-2005 (COM (2000) 379 final, Brussels, 28 June 2000) emphasised that the Amsterdam Treaty put ‘employment at the centre of the economic policy agenda of the Union and [made] its promotion a matter of common concern’. With regard to access to employment, the main problems identified were the relatively low level of employment in services, the lack of skills, long-term unemployment and regional imbalances. Groups particularly affected included women of working age, and women and men aged 55-65 years. The objectives of the policy were to raise the employment rate as close as possible to 70% by 2010 and to increase the number of women in employment to more than 60%.

The Social Policy Agenda pointed to unemployment as the single most important reason for poverty and viewed having a job as the best safeguard against social exclusion. For most citizens, having a job is a precondition to wider social and political participation, while losing or finding a job is a key factor in moving in and out of poverty (European Commission, Joint report on social inclusion, Brussels, 2001).

In the Work programme of the European social partners 2003-2005, proposed actions are grouped around three priorities: employment, enlargement and mobility. Of these, employment is the most substantial with twelve sub-topics, including actions on lifelong learning, gender equality and the ageing workforce.

See also: employment rate; employment title; enlargement.


Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.
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