Towards a job-rich recovery
This is the title of the European Commission Communication presented on 18 April concerning the “employment package”. The Commission proposes a package of measures and recommendations that will lead to job creation; it envisages funding from the Structural Funds. Environmental, health and social care and the ICT industry are identified as key sectors.
As a strategic communication, accompanied by several working documents, including two consultations, it is intended to complement the employment policy priorities of the Annual Growth Survey and contribute to the Agenda as well as other key initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy.
Supporting job creation
To promote the creation of jobs, the Commission proposes to include a budget-neutral reduction in the tax burden on labour (e.g. social security contributions) by shifting to environmental, consumption or property taxes. In addition to self-employment, social enterprises and business start-ups should be encouraged. It praises social enterprises as important drivers of inclusive job creation and social innovation. The Commission also supports the transformation of informal or undeclared work into regular employment. The Commission sees potential for jobs in the domain of the “green economy” (including in the “energy efficiency” and “renewable energy” sectors); in the ICT industry and in the health sectors. In the latter areas, a rapid increase in demand for services is noted, not only because of demographic changes (the “ageing” population), but also due to changes in family structures and the need for a balance between work and private life – something for which the European Sunday Alliance is also campaigning. A Consultation on personal and household services should provide further insight (see article in this issue). The Structural Funds are considered to be important sources of investment funding for the promotion of sustainable growth and job creation.
Restoring the dynamics of labour markets
The Commission continues to focus on reforming labour markets and is tackling the issue of decent and sustainable remuneration. It calls for the establishment of minimum wages at appropriate levels, as only by such means will it be possible to prevent a rise in the incidence of in-work poverty. The Commission is also critical of the segmentation of labour markets by temporary contracts and other non-standard forms of employment, which have not proved to be stepping-stones to permanent employment. It is therefore calling for sensible and balanced reforms of the employment protection provisions in order to reduce current recourse to forms of non-standard and temporary employment which make it difficult to plan a career and, as often as not, raise fears about the future in the hearts of the employees affected. However, one should also examine carefully whether a relaxation in protection against wrongful dismissal might not have similar effects. The Commission sees lifelong learning as key to security in employment, and it is also looking at employment transitions. For many people, multiple job changes have become a reality. The integration of women in the labour market, for example, requires equal pay and adequate childcare. But special attention is being paid to the transition of young people from education to working life, for example through an apprenticeship or a good-quality traineeship. In this regard, the Commission has launched a consultation, “Quality Framework for Traineeships” (closing date: 11 July 2012). Young people are hardest hit by the current crisis and the structural labour market problems, and therefore they need to be given opportunities (see europeinfos no. 146)
Furthermore, the legal and practical obstacles to the free movement of workers should be removed, and thought should already be being given to opening up the labour markets to Romanian and Bulgarian workers. In addition, the work on the pension portability Directive is to receive new impetus in 2012 (see also europeinfos no. 148). Against the background of demographic change in the EU, the economic migration of third-country nationals is going to be of great importance in the long term. A consultation on this subject will be launched by the end of 2012.
A second look
It is debatable whether or not this employment package presented by the Commission is a “great success”. Given the breadth of the matters addressed, and hence their possible effects and impacts on the areas of work of different church bodies, it is worth taking a second – and very close – look at the package of measures from the perspective of each actor.
Translated from the original German