The European Commission adopted the 2013 Annual Growth Survey (AGS), setting out five priorities designed to guide Member States through the crisis to renewed growth.
The AGS kick-starts the European Semester for economic policy coordination, which ensures Member States align their budgetary and economic plans with the Stability and Growth Pact and the Europe 2020 strategy.
The main message of the AGS this year is that while EU policies are beginning to show results – deficits are coming down, tensions in financial markets are easing and there are signs that competitiveness is improving in some Member States – continued reform is needed to generate sustainable growth and jobs. That is why the Commission considers that the five priorities outlined in last year's AGS remain valid. The five priorities are:
Each of the five priorities is focused on delivering growth and jobs, with a special emphasis on fairness. Targeted support for research in the public and private sectors, better performing education and training systems to raise overall skill levels, and a simpler legal regime for business start-ups – all of these measures can help to boost competitiveness and therefore growth.
The adoption of a Compact for Growth and Jobs by the Heads of State or Government at the June 2012 European Council should galvanise the efforts of the EU and Member States to mobilise the growth levers they have at hand - from the implementation of the Single Market Acts to the more targeted use of EU Structural Funds.
The AGS underlines that the labour market situation calls for an urgent response. Faced with a rise in the number of jobseekers, Member States should boost public employment services and step up "active labour market policies", including jobseekers' assistance, apprenticeships, support for entrepreneurs and quality traineeships.
The situation of young people is particularly worrying, with youth unemployment hitting 50% in many countries. The Commission has set up action teams to assist the eight Member States with the highest youth unemployment levels in redirecting EU funds for job training and support programmes. The AGS also invites Member States to develop a "youth guarantee", whereby every person under the age of 25 receives an offer of a job, further study or a traineeship within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. The Commission will present a full proposal on youth guarantees in its Youth Employment Package on 5 December.
The AGS places the emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable. Income taxes and social security contributions should be reduced, particularly for the lower paid, and reforms should be stepped up to simplify employment legislation and develop flexible working arrangements, as well as to make sure wage developments support job creation. Additional efforts are also needed to ensure the effectiveness of social protection systems and develop active inclusion strategies to counter the effects of the crisis.
Annexed to the AGS is the Draft Joint Employment Report ,which analyses the employment and social situation in Europe.