Fabian Demicoli

Getting more people into better jobs

 New plan sets out action to reach 75% employment target for the EU by 2020.

The agenda for new skills and jobs aims to make labour markets more flexible, give workers the skills they need, improve working conditions and create jobs.

 

The main goal – by 2020 – is to achieve an employment rate of 75% for all people between 20 and 64. It is one of the five key elements of the EU's growth and jobs strategy, Europe 2020.

Job creation is one of Europe's most pressing concerns. Today, 10% of 20 to 64 year olds – some 23 million people – are unemployed. And it's not that there are no jobs available. Estimates show that by 2015, the EU will lack 2.7 million skilled workers in the IT, health and research sectors.

The bloc's aging population makes the situation more complicated. The percentage of those in work must increase to offset both the large number of retirements expected in the next few years and the number of jobs lost during the recession.

The agenda has four priorities:

Modernising job markets

A single, open-ended work contract gives employees more protection from firing the longer they work. The contract would provide more job security for workers, but would be flexible enough to urge employers to hire.

Matching skills to jobs

An online database that forecasts skills supply and labour demand will help people make education and training choices based on the future job market, improving their employment prospects.

Businesses would also be able to consult the site, making it easier to find workers with the skills they need. Such pre-emptive action should prevent skill gaps.

The plan also calls for EU-wide recognition of qualifications, namely through the 'European skills passport'.

Improving job quality and working conditions

The commission will review existing laws on working time, health and safety and the integration of non-EU workers.

Creating jobs

The commission will propose ways to enable job creation by cutting red tape. They will include reducing non-wage labour costs and addressing legal obstacles to hiring, firing, setting up new companies and self-employment.

The commission is set to apply the agenda's 13 action points between now and 2014.

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