The review highlights continuing economic growth in the EU together with a steady decrease in unemployment. In the third quarter of 2016, employment exceeded its pre-crisis peak by 0.9%, or 940 thousand more people in employment than in spring 2008. In December 2016, there were 1.8 million less unemployed people than the year before; including 1.3 million people less in the Euro Area.
The EU Youth Guarantee has got off to a good start: in 2014 and 2015, it made a difference in the lives of more than 9 million young people across Europe and it is driving in-depth structural reforms in the Member States. Social Agenda n°46 explains how and highlights what more needs to be done to accelerate and release the full potential of the national plans for implementing the Youth Guarantee. With a blueprint of a European Pillar of Social Rights due for adoption in 2017, Social Agenda also explains the context in which this initiative was born. And it puts the spotlight on plans to achieve more evidence-based social policy making by modernising the way data from social surveys is collected and used across the EU.
This review confirms the strengthening of employment growth in the EU observed over the last two and a half years. Employment increased in almost all Member States (except for Croatia, which registered a small decline, and in Finland where it stagnated). Unemployment is at its lowest rate (8.6%) since March 2009, with 1.6 million (0.7 pp) fewer unemployed people in the EU compared to last year.
Social Agenda n°45 focuses on the recently adopted New Skills Agenda for Europe which supports training, learning, re-training and upskilling in order to better equip citizens for the labour market. The initiative brings clarity to the recognition of education systems, qualifications and skills across Europe, and ensures better skills profiles for third-country nationals.
This issue also highlights the action plan on the integration of third-country nationals, including asylum-seekers and refugees, adopted by the European Commission on 7 June.
The review confirms an increase of the overall employment rate, for both the EU and the euro area – an increase representing 3 million more employed people in the EU than one year before. The overall long-term unemployment rate, at the other hand, decreased by 0.6 pp compared to a year before and stands now at 4.3% of the labour force. This is the largest reduction since the first decline in long-term unemployment observed in 2014. In addition, for the first time since the start of the economic recovery, the number of very long-term unemployed (unemployed over two years) dropped more strongly than the number of people long-term unemployed for less than two years. Finally, this season's edition also shows a continuous improvement and convergence among Member States regarding youth unemployment, which has decreased more strongly in countries most affected by the crisis.
Integrating refugees into EU countries' labour markets is both a challenge and an opportunity. Social Agenda n°44 explains why and highlights the need to accelerate and deepen the integration process. The new sense of urgency brought about by the refugee crisis could bring new light and extra impetus to addressing wider issues such as unemployment, skills matching, a diminishing workforce, poverty, gender inequality and other forms of discrimination. It also takes a look at the on-going public consultation on an outline for a European pillar of social rights, the role of civil society in promoting an inclusive form of growth and the updating of the law on the posting of workers in other EU countries.
The activity rate in the EU has continued its steady increase since 2008, in particular for older people, though not yet for younger people, as highlighted by this edition of the Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review. Employment rate has returned to its pre-crisis level but with a much wider gap between countries, from 55% in Greece to 80% in Estonia, Germany and Sweden. The publication also stresses that permanent and full-time jobs continue to increase, though at a slower pace than in 2014. The financial situation of EU households continues to improve, with more available income in nearly all Member States, though financial distress remains high for households with the lower income.
The 2015 winter edition of the Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review shows improvements on the EU labour market.
Employment and activity rates have continued to increase in the EU, across all population groups and most notably for older workers (55 - 59 years). In the third quarter of 2015, the overall EU employment rate has even reached its pre-crisis level, although the progress is unevenly distributed among Member States. In addition, unemployment has continued to recede and the share of long-term unemployed persons in total unemployment has slightly gone down.
A cultural revolution is required if the EU countries want to ensure adequate pensions for the generations to come. Social Agenda n°43 focuses on pensions at a time when the EU social partners are on the verge of launching negotiations on how to change the way age is managed at work. This issue of Social Agenda also addresses demographic change (how it can be an opportunity), the EU disability strategy (which is being reviewed) and the refugee issue (how EU funds can be used to help welcome and integrate them).
Social Agenda is available in English, French and German, also in print.
For the long-term unemployed, the European Commission proposes a European framework for a pathway back to work, with a comprehensive assessment between 12 and 18 months of unemployment, a single contact person for all aspects of life and a contractual back-to-work agreement. Social Agenda n°42 presents this proposal from several angles. It has similarities with the Youth Guarantee which, two years after its launch, has created focus and momentum. This issue of Social Agenda also explains the on-going ESF simplification revolution and how the European year for development 2015 relates to employment, social affairs and inclusion.
This publication is available in paper version in English, French and German.