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Jowell: UK leading the way for Europe on Jobs


The UK is leading Europe on social and employment policy, showing that more jobs are the best way to tackle social exclusion, Employment Minister Tessa Jowell said yesterday.

Talking ahead of the Nice summit on Europe, where member states will discuss enlargement, Ms Jowell said that following successful negotiations, the EU was now following the UK employment model, combining US-style flexible labour markets with European minimum standards. This would help Europe tackle social exclusion and meet the challenge of the knowledge economy.

Ms Jowell said an enlarged Europe would cut trade barriers, create the largest single market in the world – with 500 million consumers – and help the continent meet its target of 70 per cent employment.

Last week’s negotiations on the Social Policy Agenda were a watershed for the EU. There is now a growing consensus across Europe that tackling social exclusion is not just a social policy but an employment policy too. By bringing unemployed or inactive people back into the labour market, we have further means to tackle skills shortages and increase prosperity.

Ms Jowell said labour market reform and skills were key issues for the EU, with forecasts showing that by 2002, the shortage of people with professional IT skills could be as high as 12 per cent of total demand.

Ms Jowell said, “Every region in the UK has an employment rate above the EU average. We still need to do more not only to improve the level of employment in the UK and to provide employment opportunities for all but also to promote the concept of full employment across the EU. It is vital that we remain at the forefront of European policy, not least because 3.5 million jobs are dependent on our membership of the EU.

“In the UK we are working to create more employment by tackling welfare dependency. In the EU, partly because of overly restrictive regulation, it is the women and young people who tend to be without work.”

Ms Jowell said the UK achieved everything it set out to at the Employment and Social Policy Council last week, and through decisive negotiations the EU had agreed that the best means to tackling social deprivation was by creating the opportunity to work. The Nice summit would enforce that. The agreements included:

  • The Lisbon employment target of 70 per cent is up front as the headline objective
  • Successful blocking of any new red tape for business
  • Further objectives of employability and life-long learning, following the UK model
  • First time recognition of the need to bring not just the unemployed, but the economically inactive, the disabled, ethnic minorities and older workers into employment
  • Recognition of the importance of subsidiarity, that decisions are made at the national level unless there is a specific reason for them to be made at European level.

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