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13.3.2.  The employment strategy of the European Union

    On the basis of Article 118 EEC, which enjoined it to promote a close cooperation among the Member States in the field of employment without having recourse to formal legislation, the Commission, in the 1980s, led the Council adopt guidelines for a Community labour market policy and a series of Community Resolutions and programmes in the field of employment. These Council Resolutions aimed at:

    * a Community action to combat unemployment;

    * the promotion of employment for young people;

    * combating unemployment amongst women;

    * the contribution of local employment initiatives to combating unemployment;

    * action to combat long-term unemployment;

    * promoting the integration or reintegration of women into working life; and

    * assisting the long-term unemployed.

    Despite their non-compulsory character, these Resolutions have had some practical effects. Thus, the Resolution on the promotion of employment for young people gave rise to many initiatives of the European Social Fund, whether measures in favour of young people establishing undertakings (companies, businesses), innovative practices on the part of undertakings or aid for the integration of disadvantaged young people. The Resolution on long-term unemployment led to a job creation programme being adopted for specific groups of long-term unemployed (ERGO). Likewise, local job-creation schemes formed the subject of an important action programme for the local development of employment (LEDA) aimed at pinpointing and removing the obstacles to those schemes. The Commission also set up a system for exchanges of information for local employment initiatives (ELISE) and a support programme for innovative local or regional job creation schemes (SPEC).

    On the basis of these last experiences, the Commission presented in a communication the elements of a European strategy for encouraging local development and employment initiatives (LDEI) [COM/95/273]. These are viewed in terms of local projects calling for a legal and financial partnership between the public and private sectors and geared to meeting new needs such as, home-help services, child care, assistance for young people facing difficulties, cultural heritage, crafts and tourism, waste management, protection and conservation of natural areas. The proliferation of LDEIs has created a major dynamic impetus affecting the entire territory of the European Union and combining entrepreneurial spirit, employment and local diversity.

    These first experiences of the Community could not, of course, by themselves combat unemployment on a large scale. In the 1990s it has become clear that reducing unemployment necessarily requires pro-active labour market policies. A radical new look is needed at the whole range of available instruments, which can influence the employment environment, whether these be regulatory, fiscal or social security incentives. The educational system, labour laws, work contracts, contractual negotiation systems, the social security system and business management form the pillars of the "employment environment" in each Member State and combine to give each of them a distinctive appearance. According to the subsidiarity principle [see section 3.2], the vast bulk of these measures should be for individual Member States to decide upon in responding to their diverse national situations. However, the Union can and must play an important role by: firstly, providing a forum where a common broad framework strategy can be agreed; and secondly, by underpinning national measures with complementary financial support through the European Social Fund.

    The EU Treaty sets among the objectives of the Union, mentioned in its Article 3, that of promoting ''a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress". The new Title on Employment of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU urges the Member States and the Union to work towards developing a coordinated strategy for employment and particularly for promoting a skilled, trained and adaptable workforce and labour markets responsive to economic change (Article 145 TFEU, ex Article 125 TEC). To this end, Member States must regard promoting employment as a matter of common concern and must coordinate their action in this respect within the Council (Article 146 TFEU, ex Article 126 TEC). The Union must encourage cooperation between the Member States, support and, if necessary, complement their action (Article 147 TFEU, ex Article 127 TEC). The European Council should each year consider the employment situation of the Union and adopt conclusions thereon, on the basis of which the Council should draw up employment guidelines, consistent with the broad guidelines of economic policies [see section 7.3.1], which the Member States should take into account in their employment policies (Article 148 TFEU, ex Article 128 TEC). The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure  [see section 4.3.], may adopt incentive measures designed to encourage cooperation between Member States and to support their action in the field of employment through initiatives aimed at developing exchanges of information and best practices (Article 149 TFEU, ex Article 129 TEC).

    The Council has provided a legal basis for Commission activities forming part of the European employment strategy, concerning analysis, research, cooperation and action in the field of employment [Decision 98/171]. In adopting the 1999 employment guidelines, the Council set out the subsequent procedures for monitoring the application of the guidelines by the Member States. These guidelines help the Member States to devise their own strategies, while preserving the four-pillar structure established in 1998: improving employability, i.e. giving unemployed people and workers in general better opportunities to find work, with the emphasis on suitable training; developing entrepreneurship; encouraging adaptability; and strengthening equal opportunities policies for women and men. By mid-June, each Member State must submit to the Council and the Commission a report concerning the implementation of the previous national action plan and describing the adjustments made to this plan in the light of the changes introduced by the current employment guidelines. By the end of the year, the Council adopts guidelines for the Member States' employment policies for the next year and publishes a recommendation on the implementation of employment policies in the Member States [see e.g. Decision 2010/707 and Decision 2015/1848]. The Commission monitors the employment strategy pursued by the Member States and publishes an annual report on employment rates considering how each Member State could help to achieve the goal of raising employment rates as an objective of economic policy. A European Platform seeks to enhance cooperation between Member States in tackling undeclared work [Decision 2016/344].

    One of the targets of the ''Europe 2020'' strategy [see section 7.3] is to raise the employment rate of the population aged 20–64 from 69% in 2010 to at least 75% in 2020. This requires: strengthening EU employment, education and training policies and social protection systems by increasing labour participation and reducing structural unemployment; raising corporate social responsibility among the business community; access to childcare facilities and care for other dependents; implementing flexicurity principles and enabling people to acquire new skills to adapt to new conditions and potential career shifts; combat poverty and social exclusion and reduce health inequalities; promoting a healthy and active ageing population to allow for social cohesion and higher productivity [COM/2010/2020]. Implementation of the ''Europe 2020'' strategy involves: fixing guidelines for the Union combined with specific timetables for achieving the goals in the short, medium and long terms; translating these European guidelines into national and regional policies; and periodic monitoring, evaluation and peer review. The enhanced cooperation between Public Employment Services (PES) aims to contribute to ‘Europe 2020’ and to the implementation of relevant Union policies [Decision 573/2014].

    The Programme for Employment and Social Innovation ("EaSI", 2014-2020) aims to contribute to the implementation of 'Europe 2020' strategy [see section 7.3], including its headline targets, Integrated Guidelines and flagship initiatives, by providing financial support for the Union's objectives in terms of promoting a high level of quality and sustainable employment, guaranteeing adequate and decent social protection, combating social exclusion and poverty and improving working conditions [Regulation 1296/2013]. The Programme is made up of three complementarity axes: (a) The Progress axis, which promotes evidence-based EU policy-making, social innovation and social progress, in partnership with the social partners, civil society organisations and public and private bodies; (b) The EURES axis, which supports activities carried out by EURES [see section 6.4.2], namely, the specialist services designated by the EEA states [see section 25.1] and the Swiss Confederation, together with social partners, other employment service providers and other interested parties, to develop information exchanges and dissemination and other forms of cooperation, such as cross-border partnerships, to promote voluntary geographical mobility for workers on a fair basis and to contribute to a high level of quality and sustainable employment; and (c) The Microfinance and Social Entrepreneurship axis, which aims to increase the access to, and the availability of, financing for legal and physical persons.

    The European Progress Microfinance Facility provides Union resources to increase access to, and availability of, microfinance for persons who have lost or are at risk of losing their job and for micro-enterprises, especially in the social economy [Decision 283/2010, last amended by Regulation 1296/2013].

    The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) contributes to smart, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and promotes sustainable employment in the Union by enabling the Union to demonstrate solidarity towards, and to support workers made redundant and self-employed persons whose activity has ceased as a result of major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation, as a result of a continuation of the global financial and economic crisis addressed in Regulation 546/2009, or as a result of a new global financial and economic crisis [Regulation 1309/2013].

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