“First and foremost, we need to create more jobs. But that in itself is not enough, we must invest in people so that they have the right skills to take advantage of emerging jobs and remain adaptable,” Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills & Labour Mobility told Friends of Europe’s conference “Europe’s Jobs Policy Shake-up” on 2 June.
On the European level, the Commission is focusing on jobs, growth, and fairness, the Commissioner said. Through structural reforms focussing on labour policy, tackling youth unemployment, and stimulating private investment in skills and education, the EU is witnessing reduced unemployment levels and a slow return of growth.
While European initiatives aimed at reforming and supporting job creation are being implemented, the focus on economic growth and quantitative indicators may be causing more harm than good, noted Patrick Itschert, Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).
“Yes, it is true that we need to adapt, but there is no evidence as of yet that labour market reforms are working,” he said. “While more jobs are being created, the quality of many of them is questionable. We see more people working but also a corresponding growth of precarity and inequality in our society.”
The European Union job market has not recovered from the 2008 financial crisis. More than 23 million Europeans are still without jobs, many of them young people. Yet although unemployment is at record levels – especially in southern Europe – employers are struggling to find skilled workers in areas such as IT, where there is a projected deficit of 700,000 skilled workers. Which are the job-generating sectors of tomorrow? Are there any specific skills which are really sought-after and should job seekers develop these to increase their chances of finding jobs? Are technical colleges and universities capable of adapting to the changing jobs market, and is the technical vocational education and training (TVET) system doing enough helping young people develop practical skills?
EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills & Labour Mobility
Joan Conca Domènech
Vice-President of the European Youth Forum
Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training
Managing Director for Public Policy at Facebook
Managing Director at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
More than 4.8 million young people are unemployed in the European Union, meaning that one in five young Europeans on the labour market cannot find a job; in Greece and Spain the situation is especially serious. In economic terms, youth unemployment costs EU countries around €153bn a year. Although the Youth Guarantee scheme aims at ensuring that young people have an opportunity to work within four months of becoming unemployed, there are questions after its first year of whether it has lived up to expectations. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Youth Guarantee, and how better could the school-to-work transition be handled? Are countries investing enough in education, and what lessons should be drawn from countries in northern Europe where youth unemployment remains relatively low?
UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth
Senior Executive Vice President at Solvay
Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)
Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights
Managing Director at the Walloon Office for Vocational Training and Employment
In her current role at the European Commission, Thyssen is in charge of getting more Europeans into work and improving employment opportunities across the Union. A lawyer by training, she first entered politics as a Member of the European Parliament in 1991. During her 23 years as a MEP, she continuously served on the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, later becoming Vice-Chair.
As Vice-President for interregional cooperation, Conca Domènech is in charge of strengthening ties between youth groups in Europe and beyond. When running for his current position, he expressed the need to focus especially on youth employment, youth participation and international cooperation. Conca Domènech also has experience working at a number of national and international organisations. He is, among others, a board member of the Spanish Youth Council.
As Cabinet Secretary, Cunningham is a senior minister in the Scottish Government with overall responsibility for employment policy, including youth employment and vocational training. As a Member of the Scottish Parliament, she won ‘Parliamentarian of the Year’ in 2000.
In addition to heading the Brussels office, Mann currently serves as Facebook Europe’s chief consultant. A former three-term MEP, her activities in the European Parliament focussed especially on external economic relations, having served on the Committee on International Trade for the majority of her tenure. She is one of three co-founders of the European Internet Foundation.
Richter first started her career at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and previously headed the Planning and Development Department at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), before her current appointment as GIZ Managing Director. In addition to this, she sits on numerous boards of trustees including the German Development Institute (DIE).
Alhendawi is a youth advocate and co-founder of the International Youth Council based in New York. In his current role, he works with a variety of UN agencies, national governments and civil society stakeholders to provide young people with better and more opportunities to thrive. Alhendawi also leads on the UN Youth Envoy’s Workplan, which promotes increased support for young people in areas such as employment and education.
Bande began his career as a Junior Auditor in 1974 at Solvay and has remained there ever since. He rapidly rose to his current position at the top of the company. Today, he is responsible for coordinating special projects for the group. Also a Vice-Chair of CSR Europe, Bande is very much involved in the European Pact for Youth which aims to set new standards in business-education alliances to boost employability and job creation.
Itschert used to be the voice for over ten million workers as General Secretary of a global union federation. He also served as an adviser to the Cabinet of Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Budget and was a delegate to the EESC’s Consultative Commission on Industrial Change. In 2011, he was elected ETUC Deputy General Secretary where he focuses, among others, on youth unemployment.
Jongerius has worked on employment issues for over 30 years at national level. In 2009, the Dutch monthly magazine Opzij named her the most powerful Dutch woman of the year. Second on the Dutch Labour Party list, she was elected last year to the European Parliament where she is lobbying for secure quality jobs and youth employment as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.
Nicolas Schmit is a Luxembourgish politician and diplomat, who has been instrumental in fostering a fair recovery through his current position at the Commission. An economist by training, he is a former member of the European Parliament and previously served as the Luxembourgish minister of labour. He has also held various positions within the Luxembourgish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including as head of the Department of International Economic Relations and Cooperation. Schmit’s final diplomatic posting was as Luxembourg’s permanent representative to the EU.
Vanbockestal worked in the cabinets of four different ministers whose portfolios covered, among others, employment, labour and youth. She was Chief of Staff to Wallonia’s Vice-President and Minister of Economy before joining the Walloon Office for Vocational Training and Employment which supports job seekers in looking for work and offers more than 200 study programmes.
Giles Merritt is the Founder of Friends of Europe, and was its Secretary General between 1999 and 2015, and its Chairman between 2016 and 2020.
A former Financial Times Brussels Correspondent, Giles Merritt is a journalist, author and broadcaster who has for over four decades specialised in European public policy questions. In 2010 he was named by the Financial Times as one of its 30 most influential “Eurostars”, together with the European Commission’s President and NATO’s Secretary General.
Giles Merritt joined the Financial Times in 1968, and from 1972 until 1983 he was successively FT correspondent in Paris, Dublin/Belfast, and Brussels. From 1984 to 2010 he was a columnist for the International Herald Tribune (IHT), where his Op-Ed page articles ranged widely across EU political and economic issues.
In 1982 he published “World Out of Work”, an award-winning study of unemployment in industrialised countries. In 1991, his second book “The Challenge of Freedom” about the difficulties facing post-communist Eastern Europe was published in four languages. His book “Slippery Slope: Europe’s Troubled Future” (Oxford University Press 2016), was shortlisted for the European Book Prize.
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