The European labour market is facing major challenges. We need to tackle the persisting economic and social crisis, and at the same time we are facing a huge demographic challenge. We have an ageing workforce and the number of people in "employment age" will decrease in the years to come.
Crisis or not, we are now working in an open trading area, and in a globalised world. Europe will not build a sustainable society that is prosperous in the long term without the rest of the world. We need to share the same objectives even if we don't use the same tools.
As an open globalised economy we must TOGETHER identify and share good practices. It is in all our interests.
The role of entrepreneurs in channelling such investment for economic recovery is key to ensuring a competitive and dynamic economy. To make sure that this renewed economy is sustainable in the future, we must invest in education in entrepreneurship.
We must focus on untapped human capital. This mainly means young people, women, older workers, migrants and other vulnerable groups.
A lot has happened both in the EU and in the countries of its close neighbourhood since the EU-led Black Sea Synergy initiative providing scope for regional cooperation was launched (in 2008).
A lot has evolved since the last Black Sea NGO Forum took place.
What did not change however is a vital need for civil society active engagement and mobilization of all parts of our societies to act together.
Europe's youth is its future. However, many young people do not have a job or lack the appropriate skills. The problems experienced by young people on the labour market are structural in nature and have been apparent for many years, even before the onset of the current crisis. The economic crisis, which we have been experiencing since 2008, has exacerbated the problems of young people. Unemployment in the 15-24 age group is more than twice as high as for the economically active population as a whole and nearly three times as high as among economically active adults.
This conference is very timely; demographic trends pose major challenges to the labour market. It suffers from structural problems. Young people, in particular, find it difficult to gain a footing in the labour market, despite skills they have. It is not only the case in Europe. It is also a major problem in Tunisia, where the demographic trend is the opposite: it is a very young population with high skills and no jobs.
The European Economic and Social Committee is very keen to engage with youth on sustainable development as we are preparing to give input and participate in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development that will take place in 20-22 June in Rio de Janeiro. This Conference is a crucial opportunity to send a clear message for a global change towards a green and sustainable economy and poverty eradication.
Today's conference is about a very important subject. Youth and employment are keys for Europe's future and competitiveness as well as for Europe's sustainability.
The huge challenge we are facing is to see how:
- First, we can help our young citizens onto the labour market.
- Second, on the same time we can avoid that the schemes we set up to this effect are abused.
Youth unemployment rates are much higher than unemployment rates for all ages. More than 5 million young people in the EU are unemployed today. This means that one in five young people on the labour market cannot find a job.
As President of the European Economic and Social Committee, but also as citizen, I believe that we all must act for that our children can be better off than us. My generation did not get any problem to get a job. Our children meet problems now. It is a great concern for me as a person, as a father and as a grandfather, as well as President of the EESC. And Georgios Dassis, President of the Employees' Group in the EESC, shares this concern. This is the reason why we decided to gather here today. Georgios would agree with me that leaving the young people aside would mean compromising the future of the EU and of our children.
Presentation by Christiane Westphal (European Commission) on the occasion of the 20th LMO meeting on 6 June 2011 in Madrid, Spain
Presentation by Juan Menéndez-Valdés (Eurofound) on the occasion of the 20th LMO meeting on 6 June 2011 in Madrid, Spain