Brussels releases an EU cure for joblessness
(STRASBOURG) - The European Union released its own detailed prescription Wednesday for the way back to job creation on a continent where one in 10 are out of work.
The European Commission, the EU's executive, said that while governments might struggle to pump in hard cash to create employment, there were other ways to boost jobs growth -- especially in the healthcare sector.
"The green economy, the health and new technology sectors will create more than 20 million jobs in the years to come," Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said as he presented a range of ideas drawn up by the Brussels executive.
The Commission said "concrete measures" to boost jobs would include "reducing taxes on labour."
According to his staff, a net 4.5 million jobs were lost between 2008 and mid 2011 -- although the Commission also says some four million jobs are lying vacant across the EU.
EU leaders have a target of 75 percent of 20-64 year olds in employment by 2020.
"If the target is to be met, employment in the EU will have to increase by 17.6 million additional jobs from its current level," the Commission says in a proposal for states, the EU parliament and social partners to work on before a September jobs summit.
Since the crisis, the EU employment rate has fallen to 68.9 percent (in the third quarter of 2011) and a recessionary outlook this year and substantial imbalances among states and regions make fighting poverty tougher than ever.
EU research on the social impact of the crisis suggested that 80 percent of Europeans think poverty has deepened in the year past and only 14 percent of EU citizens expect their spending power to improve in the next year.
The Commission nevertheless sees some bright spots stemming from a "greening" of the economy, a rapidly-ageing population, migratory patterns and fast technological change.
The health sector is central: already, the Commission says health care accounted for around 17.1 million jobs in 2010.
The social survey these officials cited said families are increasingly fretting about the affordability of health care services, and Brussels wants to see ever-greater mobility across borders.
While the right to work anywhere in the EU is considered "fundamental," in practice obstacles remain at various levels.
The Commission specifically wants to make pensions -- and also unemployment benefit payments -- more portable and ensure fairness in the tax treatment of cross border workers.
Meanwhile, it is again urging EU partners to drop job-market restrictions for nationals of Bulgaria and Romania.
However, in an effort to avoid pay cuts, it said "regular adjustments" negotiated with employers and unions were needed to avoid "low-wage traps," as well as close monitoring to prevent the excessive use of non-standard contractual terms.
It also called for minimum wages, even in nations such as Germany, but insisted it was "not talking about a European minimum wage," which would be unrealistic given existing variations.
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