Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report


9. JOINT EMPLOYMENT REPORT


(24011)

14378/02 +ADD 1

COM(02) 621


Commission Communication and Commission Staff Working Paper: Draft Joint Employment Report 2002.

Legal base:Article 128(5) EC; consultation; qualified majority voting
Document originated:13 November 2002
Deposited in Parliament:25 November 2002
Department:Work and Pensions
Basis of consideration:EM of 5 December 2002
Previous Committee Report:None; but see (22665) 11839/01: HC 152-iii (2001-02), paragraph 15 (31 October 2001)
To be discussed in Council:Date not set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared


Background

  9.1  The Joint Employment Report is agreed annually by the European Commission and the Council, and forms part of the European Employment Strategy (EES). Last year, we considered the report as part of a larger employment package,[13] along with the recommendations on the implementation of Member States' employment policies and the 2002 employment guidelines. However, a recent Commission Communication,[14] which we considered in October, proposed a new Implementation Package to include the Implementation Report on the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines, the draft Joint Employment Report and the implementation report on the Internal Market Strategy. The Commission's various relevant reports and scoreboard would inform this Package and its own spring report. The report and the Package would both be prepared for the Spring European Council. Following the Council Conclusions, the Commission would draft a Guidelines Package to be adopted at the Council by the end of the current Presidency.

  9.2  We assume that the appearance of the Joint Employment Report on its own is related to the development of this new, streamlined annual cycle.

The document: general findings

  9.3  The draft Joint Employment Report provides an overview of the employment situation, an overall analysis of the EES across the four pillars (employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities) and a brief country-by-country review, which includes each Member State's response to last year's Council recommendations. A supporting document (ADD 1) contains a more detailed analysis of developments under each guideline and in each Member State.

  9.4  The Executive Summary provides a useful overview. It describes the general situation as follows:

"EU employment performances in 2001 must be seen in the context of a sharp deterioration in the economic climate, with GDP growth halved compared to 2000 and serious uncertainties about the future. In spite of these less favourable conditions, performances both in terms of employment...and unemployment...continued to improve, albeit more slowly. While the EES five year evaluation pointed to structural improvements in the EU labour market, serious weaknesses remain in terms of unemployment levels, participation and employment rates, gender gaps, quality of employment, productivity growth and regional disparities. These weaknesses need to be addressed as a matter of urgency to prepare the EU labour market for challenges ahead."

  9.5  After outlining the key points related to the horizontal objectives and the four pillars, the Executive Summary looks to the future as follows:

"In the light of remaining weaknesses, the future generation of guidelines should explicitly address the three key priorities of raising employment and participation rates, improving quality and productivity at work and promoting an inclusive labour market. In all these areas much progress is still required if the overall goals of the Lisbon strategy are to be reached."

The document: the United Kingdom

  9.6  The document reports that the UK exceeds the quantitative targets set at Lisbon, and that employment growth in the UK continued for a fifth successive year. Although the growth was broadly-based some structural challenges remain: the numbers claiming sickness and disability benefit continued to rise; regional disparities are increasing; non-employment remains concentrated within deprived communities and disadvantaged groups.

  9.7  With regard to last year's recommendations, the report notes that social partners have become more closely involved in policy delivery since 1997; that, despite developments in this area, the gender pay gap remains unacceptably high; that policies to identify and address basic skill deficiencies are needed to balance the emphasis on active job search; and that work-based training to address workforce skill gaps and low productivity should be encouraged.

The Government's view

  9.8  The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Education and Skills (Mr Malcolm Wicks) comments:

"The Government is generally content with the Report, particularly its focus on the Lisbon agenda and the presentation of remaining structural weaknesses that still need to be addressed and which we believe to be the purpose of the Joint Report. The UK has already met the European Commission at an official level meeting and in working groups to discuss the Report and is content that it provides a fair reflection of the situation in the UK. There is one outstanding point of major concern regarding ...the target ...for at least 20% of unemployed people to be offered 'active measures involving education, training or similar measures'... The UK has been identified as the only Member State that has not achieved this target. We have raised the issue with the Commission regarding their narrow definition of 'active measures' and argued that UK policy is based on a preventative approach that provides a wide range of active measures to improve the employability of individuals, and not just a traditional approach to training. This policy has proved to be successful in the UK which is considered to be amongst the most effective preventative labour market policy regimes in the world. We will continue to discuss this point with the Commission and seek alternative wording that more accurately reflects the UK's position."

  9.9  The Minister tells us that Member States are writing to the Commission with any concerns. As the Commission is currently considering revisions to the Employment Strategy, the timetable for adoption of the Joint Employment Report is still not certain.

Conclusion

  9.10  We ask the Minister if we are right in assuming that the deposit of the Joint Employment Report on its own is related to the streamlining of the annual cycles for co-ordinating economic and employment policy. It would be helpful to have a timetable for the new cycle as soon as one is available.

  9.11  We consider this year's Joint Employment Report to be a comprehensive document with some important messages, especially about the progress which will be needed if the Lisbon goals for Europe's economy are to be met.

  9.12  We note that the UK comes well out of the report, with the exception of its long-standing wrangle with the Commission about "active measures". We look forward to reading any alternative wording on which the parties finally agree.

  9.13  We clear the document.


13  (22665) 11839/01; see headnote to this paragraph. Back

14  (23788) 11749/02; see HC 152-xxxviii (2001-02), paragraph 37 (16 October 2002). Back


 
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