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    Spotlight on: Report on literacy, numeracy and problem-solving ICT skills in adults 


Top stories
 Stricter EU rules on aircrew fatigue

AirplaneThe European Commission has welcomed the European Parliament's support for new stricter rules on aircrew fatigue. The new legislation includes:   

  • The reduction of flight duty time at night by 45 minutes (maximum 11h instead of 11h45),
  • The reduction of the maximum number of flying hours from 1,300 to 1,000 in 12 consecutive months,
  • The increase of the weekly rest by 12 hours (2 days instead of 1½ day) twice a month,
  • The grant of up to 5 days of rest at home base in case of significant time zone crossing (instead of 2 days currently, or even less in some Member States),
  • An important reduction of the maximum duty time (standby + flight time) in case of airport standby (16h instead of 26–28h in some Member States).

The Commission will now formally enact the Regulation. It can be expected to come into force at the end of 2013 and will become fully applicable two years later.

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 President Barroso and Commissioner Malmström visit Lampedusa

President Barroso laying flowers on the coffins of the victimsCommission President José Manuel Barroso and Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström visited Lampedusa yesterday (Wednesday) to pay tribute to the many victims of last week's tragedy. He announced that the Commission is ready to mobilise additional funding of up to €30 million this year to help refugees in Italy.

"We in the European Commission, believe that the European Union cannot accept that thousands of people die at its borders. The challenges that Lampedusa and Italy are facing are European challenges," said President Barroso at a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Letta, Minister Alfano and Commissioner Malmström.

The President also expressed his sadness at what he had seen: "That image of hundreds of coffins will never get out of my mind. It is something I think one cannot forget. Coffins of babies, coffins with the mother and the child that was born just at that moment. This is something that profoundly shocked me and deeply saddened me. I also saw the desperate eyes in many survivors, I visited with President Letta, Vice-President Alfano and Commissioner Malmström the centro di accoglienza, the reception centre, I saw desperate eyes, I saw in some of them some hope, also some hope, and I believe now we have to give reason for that hope. To show that that hope in the middle of this suffering can be justified."

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 Ireland has one of highest falls in employment rates-New Eurostat report

Woman with small childA new report published by Eurostat this week reveals EU regional statistics on the economy, population, health and labour market, as well as other sectors. Among the main findings on Ireland are:

  • Ireland has seen one of the highest falls in employment rates between 2008 and 2011. Employment rates fell by 8.2% in the southern and eastern regions, and by 9.2% in the borders, midlands and western regions during that period.
  • Ireland's population at risk of poverty and social exclusion is 29.4%, above the EU average of 24.3%. This is slightly lower, at 27% in densely populated areas, and 33% in areas with intermediate population density.
  • The Midlands region has seen the highest population increase at 1.2%, while the mid-east's population has grown by 1.1%. However the populations of the border counties and the west have decreased by -.48% and -.45% respectively.
  • Ireland's population is growing at its highest pace in the east of the country, and Ireland has the highest fertility rates in the EU.

The Regional yearbook 2013, published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, presents regional statistics from a wide range of fields, giving a more detailed and diverse picture of the EU than national level data.

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 New European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, meets with European Parliament and Commission Presidents

President Barroso with European Ombudsman Emily O'ReillyThe new European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, met this week with European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Commission President José Manuel Barroso. In two separate meetings, Ms O'Reilly stressed her willingness to co-operate closely with both institutions and outlined her priorities for the coming year.

Both Presidents underlined the importance they attach to good co-operation with the European Ombudsman and the vital role she plays for citizens and for raising standards of good administration.

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 New survey shows 90% of Dubliners satisfied with their city

Image from the cover of the studyA new EU study on perceptions of the quality of life in European cities reveals that 90% of Dubliners are satisfied with living in their city. Of the other EU capital cities, people living in Copenhagen (97%), Amsterdam and Stockholm (both 96%) showed highest levels of satisfaction while people living in Athens showed by far the lowest levels at 53% (the next lowest was Rome at 80%).

91% of Dubliners are also satisfied with the life they lead, which puts them in 7th place overall among EU capital city dwellers. The inhabitants of Copenhagen (97%) and Helsinki (96%) are most satisfied with their lives whilst the inhabitants of Athens (45%) are least.

When it comes to public transport in capital cities, 70% of Dubliners are satisfied, which is well below Helsinki (89%) but considerably above Rome, where satisfaction is lowest at 33%.

On the issue of health care services, doctors and hospitals, 59% of Dubliners are satisfied (in 17th place out of the 28 EU capitals) compared to 90% of the Viennese (in top place) and 27% of Athenians.

On a more positive note, Dubliners are in 4th place for satisfaction with schools and other educational facilities at 78% satisfaction levels. People in Ljubljana are most satisfied with their educational facilities at 87% and people in Athens are least satisfied at 39%. Dublin also fares well when it comes to satisfaction with sports facilities (in sixth place at 70%) compared to Helsinki at 84% (top) and Athens at 30% (bottom).  

Dublin does not fare so well however on the issue of safety with only 62% of people saying they feel safe in the city. This compares to 92% in Copenhagen but only 19% in Athens. However, 80% of Dubliners feel safe in their own neighbourhood.

On another note, 80% of Dubliners agree that the presence of foreigners is good for the city (joint 11th place), below Copenhagen in top place with 89% satisfaction levels but much higher than Athens at 26%. But only 53% of Dubliners think foreigners living in Dublin are well integrated.

The survey also looks at lots of other issues such as satisfaction with the environment, air quality, housing, the job situation, etc.  500 people in Dublin were interviewed for the survey at the end of last year.

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Other news
 Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn congratulates winners of Nobel Prize in Physics

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has congratulated Belgian physicist François Englert and British physicist Peter W. Higgs for winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

They received the prize "for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider."

 Malala Yousafzai awarded Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

Pakistani campaigner for girls' education Malala Yousafzai is the laureate of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2013, following the decision today (Thursday) of the Conference of Presidents (European Parliament President and political group leaders). She will be invited to receive the award at a ceremony in Strasbourg on 20 November.

"By awarding the Sakharov Prize to Malala Yousafzai, the European Parliament acknowledges the incredible strength of this young woman. Malala bravely stands for the right of all children to be granted a fair education. This right for girls is far too commonly neglected", said EP President Martin Schulz, announcing the laureate.

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 Commission welcomes European Parliament vote on modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive

EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier yesterday (Wednesday) congratulated the European Parliament on having adopted the modernisation of the Professional Qualifications Directive saying: "The text adopted today will make it easier for professionals who wish to establish themselves or provide their services in other Member States to have their qualifications recognised, whilst guaranteeing an improved level of protection for consumers and citizens."

He added: "The European Professional Card – originally an idea put forward by the European Parliament – is one of the major changes to this Directive. The use of this card, which will be proposed for certain professions, will allow citizens who are interested to obtain the recognition of their qualifications more easily and more quickly."

 4.0% reduction in CAP Direct payments in 2014 budget year

This year's CAP Direct payments will be reduced by 4.00% [4.001079%] because the available budget is €1.47bn below budgetary requirements, according to a European Commission decision taken today (Thursday). A threshold will apply to exempt the first €2000 from this "Financial Discipline" instrument.

An amending letter to the 2014 draft budget, aimed at updating forecast budget requirements, is expected in mid-October, and in this context the Commission may propose to the Council to adapt the percentage reduction to be applied.

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 European Union welcomes the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

The EU Environment Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik and the Lithuanian Environment Minister Valentinas Mazuronis today (Thursday) signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury on behalf of the European Union. The new Convention, which is named after the location of the worst-ever case of mercury pollution, covers all aspects of the mercury life cycle. Once properly implemented, it will have genuinely global effects, as mercury pollution travels long distances in the air. Pregnant women, infants and children are at particular risk from mercury in the food-chain, and the Convention will bring about significant decreases to their exposure to this toxic substance in the long term.

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 European regions encouraged to offer SMEs vouchers of up to €10,000 to go digital

Image of the ICT Innovation VoucherThe European Commission is piloting a scheme whereby Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) can benefit from a grant worth up to €10,000 in order to increase their digital capacity. The funding will be made available through "innovation vouchers" to ensure funding allocated to SMEs to enhance their e-commerce and ICT capacities is spent quickly and in full. The vouchers worth up to €10,000 will be made available for purchasing and learning to make use of digital (ICT) services.

Web-connected small businesses across G-20 countries have 22% higher revenue growth than those with low or no web-use.

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 House prices down in the EU in the second quarter of 2013 compared to the second quarter of 2012

According to figures released today (Thursday) by Eurostat, house prices are down by 2.2% in the euro area and by 1.3% in the EU28 in the second quarter of 2013 compared to the second quarter of 2012. However, when compared to the first quarter of 2013, house prices in the second quarter rose by 0.3% in the euro area and by 0.4% in the EU.

The highest annual increases in house prices in the second quarter of 2013 were recorded in Latvia (+8.8%), Estonia (+8.1%) and Luxembourg (+5.1%), and the largest falls in Croatia (-19.7%), Spain (-10.6%) and the Netherlands (-7.5%).

In Ireland prices rose by 2.3% in the second quarter of 2013 when compared to the first quarter of 2013 and by 1.2% when compared to the second quarter of 2012.


Thursday 10 October: Address to the IIEA: “Reflections on the EU as a Foreign Policy Actor" by Robert Cooper, Counsellor to Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Dublin

Thursday 10 October: Transport, Telecommunications & Energy Council, Luxembourg

Thursday 10 October: Europe Direct Soapbox Competition, ‘Citizens are at the heart of the EU’, Mallow Library

Monday 14 October: Eurogroup meeting, Luxembourg

Monday 14 October: Environment Council, Luxembourg

Tuesday 15 October: Economic and Financial Affairs Council, Luxembourg

Tuesday 15 October: Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, Luxembourg

Thursday 17 October: Celebrating Europe's Languages event, Dublin  

Thursday 17 October: Europe Direct Soapbox Competition, ‘Citizens are at the heart of the EU’, Mountmellick Library    

Tuesday 29 October:   Europe Direct Soapbox Competition, ‘Citizens are at the heart of the EU’, Letterkenny Library    

Friday 1 November: Europe Direct Soapbox Competition, ‘Citizens are at the heart of the EU’, Tubbercurry Library    

Tuesday 5 November: Public Seminar on European Economic Policy, Dundalk              

Thursday 7 November: Europe Direct Soapbox Competition, ‘Citizens are at the heart of the EU’, Dundalk Library

Friday 8 November: Europe Direct Soapbox Competition, ‘Citizens are at the heart of the EU’, Westside Library, Galway

Tuesday 12 November: Public Seminar on European Economic Policy, Institute of Technology, Tallaght

Wednesday 13 to Friday 15 November: Earth Gathering: Ireland 2013 event, Dublin (organised by the UCD Earth Institute)

Public consultations
 Public consultation on reducing marine litter

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the establishment of a quantitative reduction headline target for marine litter.

The aim of this consultation is to understand stakeholders’ views on a range of actions and policies which could be undertaken in order to tackle the problem of marine litter. The results of the consultation will be used as one of the bases for formulating a Union-wide quantitative headline reduction target for marine litter.

All citizens and organisations are welcome to contribute to this consultation. Contributions are particularly sought from representatives of the waste management, plastic producer/recycling, fisheries and shipping sectors, as well as consumers, NGOs and international, national and sub-national authorities with responsibility for tackling marine litter.

The consultation is open until 18 December 2013.

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Spotlight on: Report on literacy, numeracy and problem-solving ICT skills in adults
 Irish 3rd level graduate literacy skills equal to or less than Finnish and Dutch secondary school graduates

Child playing with alphabet blocksThe results of a study carried out by the European Commission and the OECD published this week reveal that literacy scores from recent upper secondary school graduates in the Netherlands and Finland are close to or better than those of higher education graduates in Ireland.

The study also finds that Ireland is not making the best economic use of its skilled workforce. In Ireland, around one in four adults with high levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy is outside the workforce, compared to less than one in five in the US.

There is also a bigger earnings gap in Ireland between the low-skilled and the highly skilled than in a number of other countries in the study.

The PIAAC report published by the OECD is based on a survey of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving ICT skills of adults aged 16-65 in 17 EU Member States - Belgium (Flanders), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, The Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and the UK (England/Northern Ireland), as well as in Australia, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States. The findings underline the need to target investment at improving education and training to increase skills and employability in European countries.

The Survey's key findings:

  • 20% of the EU working age population has low literacy and numeracy skills: the figure is higher among the unemployed who are likely to be caught in a 'low-skills trap' because they do little or no adult learning;
  • 25% of adults lack the digital skills needed to effectively use ICT (addressing this is one of the objectives of the Commission's new Opening up Education initiative);
  • There are striking differences between countries in skills provided through formal education: recent school leavers with an upper secondary qualification in some Member States have similar or better skills than higher education graduates in others;
  • Lifelong learning policies must aim at sustaining skills over time given the gaps between generations revealed by the survey and the significant economic and social benefits of higher skills.  ´╗┐

Differences between Member States

The evidence from the data collected by the OECD shows significant differences between Member States. Examples are given below:

One adult in five has low literacy or numeracy skills in Ireland, France, Poland and the UK. This rises to almost one adult in three in Spain and Italy.

More than 40% of the adult population in the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden have high problem solving skills in ICT environments, while almost one in five adults have no computer experience in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Poland and Slovakia.

Literacy scores from recent upper secondary school graduates in the Netherlands and Finland are close to or better than those of higher education graduates in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and the UK (England/Northern Ireland).

In Belgium (Flanders), Spain, France and Finland, the level of proficiency in literacy and numeracy among 25-34 year olds is significantly better than the generation aged 55-65.

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