Speaking at a Ministerial conference in Bratislava on the impact of the crisis on employment and labour market recovery, László Andor EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion stressed the need for Member States "to restructure their labour markets and ensure skills are in line with demand". The Commissioner underlined, in particular, the importance of "building solid partnerships between workers and employers, but also between governments at EU, national and local level".
The conference aimed to assess the employment situation in the four Visegrad countries (Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary) and was a useful opportunity to exchange views on mitigating the effects of the economic crisis. The Commissioner said at the conference that "There is a general consensus that we need a new economic order, where growth is smart, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive as reflected in the EU's Europe 2020 targets".
During his visit, Commissioner Andor also visited a European Social Fund (ESF) project in the Petrzalka district, Bratislava, which offers support to improve both the job skills and social skills of young people in the margins of society so they can prepare to find a job.
In Slovakia, almost €1.5 billion from the European Social Fund (ESF) over 2007-2013 is directed at employment and social measures, as well as education and training. ESF support is especially important for the active inclusion of vulnerable groups like, for example, the Roma people. The Commissioner stressed the important value the ESF can add to policy reform efforts in all of the Visegrad countries.
Speaking to journalists, Mr Andor underlined that: "With signs of growth in several countries, we now have an opportunity to work on bold reforms and prevent the mistakes of previous economic crises where unemployment persisted despite GDP recovery". The Commissioner gave some examples of key areas for reform at national level, including more employment friendly tax systems, reflecting productivity in wages, more flexible work arrangements, linking pension systems to the demographic situation, and bridging the gap between workers with temporary or more precarious contracts – much harder hit in the crisis – and workers with a high level of protection.
In the EU, around €350 billion has been directed towards economic recovery measures of which more than a third has specifically been aimed at supporting labour market reform and households.