Work and the workplace have a key role to play in giving meaning and structure to our lives, especially in today’s difficult economy, and the European Commission is right to showcase active inclusion to correct the negative social effects of the crisis, writes Anne Marie Muntz, the president of Eurociett, the European association of private employment agencies.
“As the EU launches its 2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, aimed at getting as many people into work as possible while ensuring proper support mechanisms for those without jobs, the Commission is correct to recognize the potential impact that unemployment could have on starting to erode social inclusion.
Governments across the EU have sought to stem the problem by introducing ‘back to work’ initiatives to subsidize jobs and employers, in order to keep people in the workplace. They realize that taking action now could help to avoid the potential social consequences of long-term unemployment on workers, their families and society.
Exposing people to the workplace and ensuring that we do not create a ‘lost generation’ as a consequence of the current jobs crisis will be vital across the EU 27. The agency work sector offers solutions to both short and long-term employment challenges by maintaining employment, upgrading skills and enhancing labor market access.
By co-operating closely with both public employment services and local authorities, agencies drive mobility among sectors and match supply to demand by providing a ‘flexible layer’ that helps employers adapt to economic cycles.”
One of the opportunities is to support EU goals in three key areas: facilitating transitions in the workplace, providing training and upskilling and enhancing market access.
“Managing transition in the workplace is crucial to supporting people from unemployment into employment and then from temporary positions to permanent ones. In Belgium for example, 65% of those accepting temporary work move on to a more permanent job. The sector drives labor market mobility – geographical, occupational and social – and matches people with jobs. Its network across Europe enables it to direct workers from sectors that are retracting into those looking to increase their workforce in line with renewed demand.
The Commission has recognized the importance of labor mobility in recent regulation and will need to drive these policies as part of its commitment to combat poverty and social exclusion in 2010. They go hand-in-hand with its ‘New Skills for New Jobs’ initiative, which aims to re-train workers who are unemployed or are stuck in declining industries and equip them to work in the new and emerging sectors.
Vocational training and skills enhancement programmes prepare employees to meet market demand and manage the transition between jobs and sectors. Public-private partnerships have made training schemes more widely available and have helped vulnerable groups like youth and the long-term unemployed to ready up for the new labor market. Over the past year, the agency work industry has set up sector-level bipartite training funds in an increasing number of countries with some € 524 million invested and benefiting some 643,000 workers.
To drive higher employment rates, Europe needs to broaden access to labor markets, including opening up opportunities for ethnic minorities and workers with disabilities. Younger workers are particularly over-represented among the unemployed as they are often the hardest hit in times of crisis. At the other end of the scale, as we face an ageing population and increasing pressure on pensions in the wake of the financial crisis, temporary work enables people nearing retirement to take a flexible approach to gradually transitioning out of fulltime work.
If Europe is to be effective in reducing social exclusion, it is going to have to work in partnership with the public and private services that support and promote employment and training.”
© randstad.com 04.02.2010