“Europe is at stake” - European Brainstorming Conference calls for socially responsible fiscal consolidation and more political willingness to cooperate among European countries
Thursday 6 October 2011
GENEVA (ILO News) – A High-Level Brainstorming Conference, bringing together prominent international experts, representatives of governments, members of the European Parliament, employers’ and workers’ representatives, was organized by the ILO’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and the International Institute for Labour Studies on 3 and 4 October 2011 in Geneva. The Conference noted that not enough attention was paid to the social and economic risks of a prolonged job crisis in Europe. It discussed ways of tackling the twin fiscal and jobs deficits, provided there is political leadership and willingness to cooperate among European countries, particularly surplus and deficit countries and to achieve more policy coherence between economic, employment and social policies including the respect for international labour standards.
“Europe is at stake”, said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia as he wrapped up the Conference’s diagnosis of the actual European situation and its analysis of the roots and evolutions of the crisis. For all participants it was clear that Europe is showing a worrying picture of unemployment, a segmented labour market due to rising inequalities and precarious work affecting especially young people, a lack of linkage between wages and productivity, fading automatic stabilizers such as social protection, a lack of support for small and medium sized enterprises, and finally of increasing concerns about respect for basic workers’ rights and a diminishing social dialogue (such as in some South-Eastern-European Countries). The Conference observed that while some of these trends had already developed in previous years, they were accelerated and aggravated by the crisis.
Many European countries, alarmed by fiscal deficits and public debt ratios had gone from economic recession to policy regression and tended to shift abruptly to policies which derailed job recovery. The Conference warned that this combined fiscal and jobs-deficit was socially unfair and contributed to a loss of people’s trust in EU institutions and national governments.
The Conference also identified the closeness of the founding values of the EU and the ILO and related policy tools such as the EU2020Strategy and the ILO Global Jobs Pact that were mirrored in the conclusions of the recent G20 Labour Ministerial in Paris held under the French Presidency. With these, policy solutions to counter the European crisis are on the table.
The G20 Taskforce on youth employment, the EU 2020 Strategy, its Flagship initiative on “Youth on the move” and the 2012 discussion at the ILO’s International Labour Conference on the “Youth Employment Crisis” were cited as good examples of policy coherence. However, the need for more action and implementation in other policy areas was emphasized.
Consequently the Conference called for a new set of policy recommendations based on the ILO Global Jobs Pact implemented through enhanced cooperation and policy coherence within and among European governments, together with the EU institutions as well as at multilateral and inter-agency level.
This policy set should place employment and social policies as well as quality-jobs at the centre of economic and financial policies, fight labour market segmentation, focus on education, training and regular employment for young people, provide a conducive environment for productive investment including through state’s revenues generating measures such as a Financial Transaction Tax, put the real economy in the driver’s seat and extend the capacity of the EU and European Governments to make the European Social Model sustainable.
The results of this Brainstorming Conference provide a platform for future discussion rounds and will also feed into the next European Regional Meeting of the ILO planned for spring 2013.