Fabian Demicoli

Jobs 4 Europe – The Employment Policy Conference


The conference was
held on the 6th and 7th September 2012 at the Charlemagne
Building in Brussels. GRTU was represented by Marcel Mizzi. The conference was
addressed, among others, by the Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, the
President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, the President of the
European Council, Herman van Rompuy and the Secretary-General of the OECD,
Angel Gurria.

Keynote speeches were given by the Prime Minister of Italy, Mario
Monti, and 2010 Nobel Prize laureate, Christopher Pissarides.

The conference was structured around
five main topics, namely, Building a dynamic European labour market, Impact of
the crisis on employment, Sectors with high job creation potential, Employment
policy throughout the life cycle and 
Pathways to full employment.

José Manuel Barroso opened the
conference with a speech emphasizing how important this conference was and that
it was being held at a very opportune time. He highlighted the problems being
increasingly faced by European young people to find jobs and how jobs had
become more precarious for those already employed. He highlighted figures that
show that more than 10 million people across the Member States are facing long
term unemployment. He stated that the commission would soon publish details of
a Youth Package establishing a youth guarantee scheme and a quality framework
to facilitate traineeship.

Barosso said that he was worried about
the way negotiations are going as regards a common European Social Policy.
Although ultimately the social dimension has to be first tackled at government
level, the EU must have a holistic social approach. He stressed that the EU
must adopt a job centered approach to solve these problems, starting with
boosting the demand for labour by adopting supply side policies, promoting
skills matching across borders and making employment governance crucial by
providing multi lateral surveillance.

Barroso concluded by saying that the
economic and financial crises has had significant impact on EU economic growth
and society as a whole. Dismantling the welfare state is not an option. We must
pull our resources together to overcome these challenges and make Europe the
social Europe everyone wants to build.

Van Rompuy also started by stressing
the importance of the European employment challenges and the importance of the
conference. He also outlined employment statistics and explained that
employment levels have gone down in most member states and that in Spain and
Greece the situation had reached monstrous proportions. The speaker dissected
the phenomenon into distinct divisions, namely, the competition from well
educated foreign workforces and the problems in the job supply side.  He looked at the problem from a
competitiveness point of view and that if we tackle European competitiveness,
everything else should ultimately fall into place. He also firmly believes that
the Commission should promote targeting specific groups and promoting promising
sectors such as Green Jobs, White jobs and ICT Jobs which he called "Copper
Jobs".

Van Rompuy gave a timeline of what the Commission
has been doing since 2010 to tackle this issue, namely by directing available
EU funds, incentivizing employers to hire more people, and setting out clear
targets. He concluded by emphasizing the role of the social partners in the
changes and reforms that have to be made.

Martin Schulz's introduction was
perhaps the most dramatic. He sighted high youth unemployment as threatening
the legitimacy of the EU and undermining the legitimacy of democratic
institutions. Unemployed people see the EU as the anonymous bureaucratic power
that has money to save the banks but no money to guarantee employment for them.
Schultz cited a "job_intensive" financial recovery plan which the Commission
has already called for. In spite of these initiatives the outlook is still
bleak.

Schultz iterated that Europe needs to
guarantee that young people in the member states are either employed or in
further training within four months of leaving school. He said that a draft of
this proposal was on its way to the European Parliament. He concluded by saying
that in spite of the challenges he sees that the problems we face can be
overcome by reflecting on our values and strengths.

During a later part of the conference, the delegates were
separated into groups and various related subjects were discussed in detail.
Presentations were made by academia as well as by Members of the European
Parliament and other experts. Representatives from countries outside the EU
were invited to share their experiences and best practices were discussed in
detail. The adoption of measures in effected countries was also discussed at
length.

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