The effect of the financial and economic crisis on the distribution of labour force among the productive sectores, with a special regard to SME's (exploratory opinion requested by the Hungarian presidency)

Gist of the opinion

Among the priority actions, the EESC identifies: developing the potential of new entrepreneurship, especially among women, youth employment and support for the Youth on the Move flagship objective.

Recommends that an annual SME conference be held to take stock of the situation of SMEs in Europe, particularly as regards employment. This flagship conference should involve a range of national and European professional associations and all the European institutions.

In particular, the EESC calls for a roadmap to create – as of now – the necessary conditions for the development of new innovative enterprises and support for existing SMEs in order to contribute to creating new jobs, which are needed to emerge from the crisis, and in order to return to sustainable growth. The measures adopted should be programmed at the European, national and regional levels, and should include commercial and non-commercial or social economy enterprises. Alongside this roadmap, provision should be made for the training of unemployed workers and young people to access these new jobs.

The EU, in agreement with the Member States, could support, in convergence regions, the use of Structural Funds aimed at to supporting SMEs.

The EESC believes that the internationalisation of SMEs must be stepped up in order to increase their access to new markets and, therefore, their job-creation capacity.

Access to new markets should be preceded by solid trade agreements setting out simple ready-to-use procedure protocols for SMEs.

The EESC stresses the importance of public procurement, in compliance with social and environmental standards, as a means to support the survival of businesses and local jobs.

The EESC calls for the strengthened development of clusters and sectoral groups of SMEs.

Instruments such as JEREMIE, JASPERS and JESSICA need to be strengthened.

The EESC asks the Commission to emphasise and step up its involvement in the promotion of new low-carbon emission technologies and the green economy, which are a source of new and better jobs.

The Committee recommends that the Enterprise Europe Network should not only provide general information and advice, but also have a sectoral role and be given administrative functions as a one-stop shop.

The EESC calls for the adoption of a European SME statute and implementation at Member State level of the Small Business Act, on which it has previously issued an opinion, to be expedited.