Commission adopts guidelines for Member State employment policies

In preparation for the special Jobs Summit in November 1997, dedicated to the issue of employment, the European Commission adopted a package of three documents in October. These highlight the current labour market situation in the EU, outline the Commission's guidelines for Member State labour market policies in 1998 and provide analysis and examples of good practice to back up these recommendations.

In the run-up to the special Jobs Summit to be held in Luxembourg on 20 and 21 November 1997, the European Commission, on 1 October 1997, adopted a package of three documents:

The objective of the publication of these documents is to provide sound analysis and policy guidance to the heads of state meeting in Luxembourg to discuss how to resolve the problem of persistently high levels of unemployment in Europe.

Article 4 of the new "employment chapter" of the Amsterdam Treaty foresees the establishment of common guidelines in the area of employment which can lead to recommendations to Member States (EU9707135F). The Guidelines formulated by the Commission will provide a framework for discussion at the Jobs Summit in November. The are developed under the four main lines of action outlined in the Joint Employment Report 1997:

  • entrepreneurship;
  • employability;
  • adaptability; and
  • equal opportunities.

In order to promote a "new culture of entrepreneurship", the Commission recommends that Member States take measures to make it easier to start up and run businesses, taking into account the new proposals developed by the "business environment simplification task force". In order to develop the wealth behind entrepreneurs and innovators, the Commission proposes the development of markets for venture capital. Taxation and social security systems are also to be made more employment friendly.

In order to close the skills gap and improve the employability of low-skilled individuals in particular, the Guidelines propose action to combine preventive with early reintegration measures in order to reduce and tackle long-term and youth unemployment . The Commission proposes concrete time limits in this area:

  • every unemployed adult should be offered a job, training, retraining, work practice or another employability measure before reaching 12 months of unemployment; and
  • every unemployed young person should have access to such measures before reaching six months of unemployment

The Commission estimates that the implementation of such measures can be expected to reduce rates of long-term and youth unemployment by half within five years.

As research has shown that the failure to complete full-time education and low achievement at this level are major causes of youth unemployment, the Commission advocates measures to reduce the numbers of pupils dropping out of the education system by half within five years and to reduce progressively the share of those who do not complete upper secondary-level education. The Guidelines also encourage Member States to make increasing use of apprenticeships.

Reiterating the theme of activation of passive labour market policies, the Commission calls upon the Member States to set targets for the number of people to be transferred from passive income support to active employability-related measures. Within the same timeframe, the proportion of unemployed people offered training is to be increased from the current 10% to 25%. In order to achieve workplace training targets and continue along the path of wage moderation, the Commission calls upon the social partners to develop a partnership approach.

Increasing adaptability of work organisation should be achieve by the social partners negotiating, at the appropriate levels, flexible working time arrangements. Member States are called upon to make the use of non-standard forms of employment more viable, but at the same time more secure. Internal flexibility and adaptability within enterprises is to be achieved through training and lifelong learning initiatives.

The Commission also wishes to see measures to tackle the persistent gender gap in the labour market and improve opportunities for reconciling work and family life, as well as facilitating the return to work.

The Joint Employment Report and Employment in Europe report back up these recommendations with recent statistics and examples of good practice.

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