Bid to boost equal opportunities

Author (Person)
Series Title
Series Details Vol.4, No.26, 2.7.98, p4
Publication Date 02/07/1998
Content Type

Date: 02/07/1998

By Myles Neligan

SOCIAL Affairs Commissioner Pádraig Flynn is expected to take EU governments to task next week for neglecting equal opportunities in their national employment strategies.

Flynn has already publicly expressed his disappointment at the lack of emphasis on improving job prospects for women, ethnic minorities and the disabled in the national 'back-to-work' plans unveiled in April as part of the follow-up to last November's EU employment summit.

Meanwhile, Vienna, which took over day-to-day management of EU business this week, has identified the promotion of equal opportunities as one of its presidency priorities. Austria has a low but rising unemployment rate and a particularly high proportion of long-term jobless.

An Austrian government's study of equal opportunities in employment in the EU, which concludes that women and other disadvantaged groups make up an unacceptably high proportion of the EU's 18 million jobless, will provide a starting point for a debate on the issue at next week's informal meeting of EU social affairs ministers in Innsbruck.

MEPs, representatives of employers and trade unions will also contribute to the talks, while a separate working group will focus on the problems women face in entering the workforce.

The debate comes at a time when the average EU jobless rate remains stubbornly above the psychologically important 10% barrier and amid growing concern that the Union's strategy for combating the problem may simply not be up to the task.

From the outset, Flynn's push to persuade EU governments to sign up to common employment strategy guidelines has been beset by difficulties, with critics claiming that structural differences between national labour markets are so great that a harmonised approach to getting the EU's jobless back to work is doomed.

Germany, which argues that initiatives of this kind should be left to national governments, has participated in the exercise only reluctantly, and other member states are seriously divided over how best to solve the problem.

In addition, the EU scheme has been hampered by its lack of common criteria and definitions, which makes the achievements of national governments in reducing unemployment rates difficult to compare.

Commission is critical of EU governments for neglecting equal opportunities in their national employment strategies.

Subject Categories