Posted by

Karen Clements, Consultant on European Affairs

25 Apr 2012

Governments across Europe are scrambling around for ways to boost growth and create jobs against a backdrop of fiscal rectitude at best and punishing austerity at worst.  This week, the European Commission joined the fray with a so-called employment package entitled 'Towards a job-rich recovery'. As is the case with much of the output from the Commission's employment services, it is a curate's egg.  Fundamentally well intentioned, occasionally perspicacious but generally misguided, often perverse and even fantastical. 

No one can argue with the Commission's analysis of the problems afflicting Europe's labour markets, or indeed with some of its proposed solutions - tax consumption not labour; make work pay; incentivise self employment and entrepreneurship etc. You may not agree with picking champions but the sectors it identifies as 'employment' rich - green economy; health and social care; ICT - are realistic ones and some governments might do well to focus on them. 

The Commission is right too to identify tackling youth unemployment as a matter of urgency for Europe's member states, but its proposals for action such as increasing the budget for the European Social Fund without reforming the fund itself are perverse; not to mention calls for higher wages, extending welfare benefits; lengthening parental leave; avoiding temporary contracts; wage setting at European level; not forgetting quality jobs in personal services. Luckily, the package contains no legislative proposals, just exhortations to action and a scoreboard to monitor member states' efforts to create jobs - a good idea that will never see the light of day if EU members have anything to do with it. The BCC's solution to get Europe working again is more simplistic: no more employment legislation until Europe is up on its feet again.  Anything else is window dressing.