Member states urged to improve social and employment policies
By Sophie Petitjean | Wednesday 30 May 2012
The European Commission recommends that the member states improve the functioning of their labour markets, reducing unemployment, increasing job creation, increasing the retirement age, increasing female employment and reducing poverty. Such was the main message of the employment and social affairs country-specific recommendations, which the Commission presented on 30 May as part of the ‘European semester’ 2012.
“There are more country-specific recommendations on employment, education and exclusion this year than last year. [...] Smart fiscal consolidation, financial reform and combating tax avoidance are all important elements in Europe’s efforts to get out of the crisis. But we will not get growth and stability without bringing more people into more productive work,” the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, said.
The Commission recommends to several member states that they continue (or even enhance) their reform of the pension systems to extend working life by linking pensionable age to life expectancy, by reducing early retirement rates, and by adapting the workplace. The Commission specifically encourages the Czech Republic, which has already started reforming its pension system, to explicitly mention the link between life expectancy and retirement age.
The executive then asks several member states, and in particular the Southern ones, to adjust their legislation on employment protection so as to make it easier to recruit young people, older workers and women. In the same vein, it suggests that some member states – such as Belgium – should further review wage indexation and wage-setting systems to allow alignment with productivity developments.
Thirdly, the Commission calls on member states, such as Spain and Portugal, to reduce youth unemployment and to facilitate the transition from school to the labour market, for example by increasing the availability of apprenticeships and work-based learning, by reducing school drop-out rates and by introducing hiring incentives for companies.
Another series of recommendations, whose aim is to increase job creation and work incentives, calls on the member states to shift the tax burden away from labour by making public employment services more efficient and effective.
Lastly, the Commission recommends that the member states increase female employment and reduce poverty through improved social protection systems, better access to social services and more targeted social assistance.
These social recommendations will be debated by the employment ministers, on 21-22 June, ahead of their adoption by the heads of state and government at the EU summit, on 28-29 June.