Labour market reforms were top of the agenda at a meeting of the UK and Spanish Governments yesterday in Majorca.
Ministers and officials from the two Governments discussed preparations for next Spring’s Barcelona Summit, means of achieving the EU’s employment targets and the importance of quality in work.
Malcolm Wicks, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Work, said: “We know how important the Barcelona Summit will be for the Spanish Government and for the EU as a whole. The UK Government welcomes this opportunity to contribute to preparations for Barcelona. We want Barcelona to reconfirm the importance of reforming Europe’s labour markets.
“Timing is also right to sharpen up and refocus our efforts to achieve full employment through the Luxembourg EU Employment Strategy. Europe has challenging employment targets to meet by 2010 – 70% for all employees, 60% for women and 55% for older workers.
“To give some idea of the challenge we face is the fact that the EU needs to get 17.1 million people into work by the end of the decade to reach this target.
“Both employment growth and quality in work issues are vitally important to our discussions. The nature of jobs is changing so rapidly, quality in work depends on ensuring that everyone has the chance to develop his or her career. They will want access to the up to date skills which will guarantee sustained, well paid employment.”
Mr Wicks set out the UK Government’s policy priorities for EU labour market reform:
- Skills and qualifications to equip the unemployed for the modern labour market
- Removal of disincentives for the unemployed to return to work
- Promotion of employment opportunities for older workers
- Lifelong learning opportunities
- Equal opportunity for men and women
- Combination of flexibility and security in the labour market