In the current climate, governments seek to consolidate their budgets and boost growth at the same time. This makes social welfare spending a prime target for cuts, which is why it is important to spend not more, but more effectively.
You often hear that occupational safety and health impose heavy administrative burdens on businesses and are an obstacle to competitiveness. Let me debunk this myth: consequences of bad health and safety management are very serious not only for the victims, but also for employees, employers, the government and the general public. Top management and owners of companies, especially SMEs, must improve risk prevention at the workplace
Tackling the challenges facing our pension systems calls for a holistic approach, involving labour market and taxation measures. The crisis has triggered a wave of pension reform across Europe. This is necessary for consolidation of public finances in the short term and enhancing the sustainability of pension systems in the longer term. Cooperation and dialogue with all stakeholders is central to our efforts to reshape Europe's economic governance in the wake of the crisis.
Social investment is not a zero-sum game, but a win-win situation, from which European societies and European citizens can benefit. Economic efficiency and social equity should be pursued at the same time. Ultimately this will help the European Union to emerge not only stronger and more competitive from the crisis, but also more inclusive and cohesive.
Social investment is key if we want to emerge from the crisis stronger, more cohesive and more competitive. Member States need to shift their focus to investment in human capital and social cohesion. By investing now, Member States can avoid paying a much higher financial and social bill in the future.
While emerging from the crisis as a stronger and more stable Union is our common goal, we need to ensure that when growth picks up, this growth creates jobs and is inclusive.
It is increasingly clear that European institutions need further reform, so that people across Europe support the pooling of fiscal sovereignty and of decision-making on structural reforms in the monetary union. But if people are to identify with the way the economic and monetary union works, then instruments to deal with unemployment and poverty and to support human capital development must really be at the heart of the union.