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Press Releases

17.02.2006

Bartenstein: Succeeding in the globalised economy with an innovative labour market policy

International conference in Vienna under the Austrian EU Presidency

 

“Globalisation of the economy has presented labour market policy with new challenges that can only be met with new and innovative ideas,” declared Council President and Minister for Economics and Labour Martin Bartenstein at a press conference in the Vienna Hofburg on Friday following the international conference on this topic, jointly hosted by the Austrian EU Presidency and the European Commission. “In the present situation, we need a much greater measure of good, efficient labour market policy” he continued, adding that “We must move away from the previous status of a supposed job security that in fact never really existed and toward the more modern form of employment security. We must increase flexibility in the labour market and at the same time give workers the assurance that they will be employed. A good labour market policy will assure this so-called Flexicurity.”

According to Bartenstein, the conference achieved its goal with a comprehensive exchange of experiences. Best practice models were presented, but at the same time it emerged that there can be no general formulas, since conditions in the individual countries are too different. But the experts agreed that it is inefficient to consider labour market policy in isolation and that there is rather a need for parallel deregulation, qualification and research and development, Bartenstein pointed out.

For Austria he identified a large deficit at the school-to-work interface. It was much too late if problems of less talented young people were only identified by employment agencies. This problem, warned the minister, called for more serious dialogue with teachers and parents. On the other hand, as far as qualification measures for women were concerned, Austria held a good place in comparison with other EU countries. Austrian labour market policy was also well placed in terms of the balance between rights and obligations.

Many opportunities in the services sector

Minister Bartenstein sees many opportunities for the European labour market in the services sector, which had been seriously undervalued in the past, but was in fact showing the most rapid growth. This area provided a broad range of possibilities, which could not, or could hardly be transferred to third countries. The European Parliament’s approval yesterday of the services directive was therefore most welcome and in accordance with this conference in Vienna. Bartenstein stated that in his capacity as Council President he would further promote this directive in March with the European social partners and with his ministerial colleagues. He further emphasized “There is a real possibility that we shall be able to reach political agreement during the Austrian Presidency.”

Commissioner Spidla: Globalisation requires a dynamic society

At the press conference, Vladimir Spidla, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, also singled out Flexicurity as a model for the future. Flexibility would bring about or continue the dynamism needed to react successfully to the challenges of the modern world of work. These challenges were not only the result of globalisation, but also arose from domestic circumstances: “The computer does not come from China; we developed it ourselves,” the Commissioner offered as an example. Spidla also expressed the opinion that it was not jobs that must be protected but the individual workers, who must be flexible enough to adapt to new situations and be prepared to retrain. Even though many points of view were without doubt controversial, preserving the status quo would mean the death of solidarity, warned Spidla.

When questioned as to his opinion of the Austrian decision to maintain the transitional period for the free movement of workers from the new EU Member States for another three years, Spidla referred to Austria’s exclusive competence in this matter. The Commission had presented facts and figures in its report, the interpretation and the conclusions drawn from it were the affair of the individual governments, as set forth in the accession treaties.

Present at the conference in Vienna, in addition to Commissioner Spidla, were Labour Ministers Tony Killeen of Ireland and Roberto Maroni of Italy, delegates from all the EU Member States, the two acceding countries, Romania and Bulgaria, and the three candidate countries Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey. The OECD and social partner organisations were also represented. Participants from Australia and the USA presented points of view from outside Europe.

Contact:

Federal Ministry for Economics and Labour
Minister's Office: Holger Fürst, Tel: (43-1) 71100-5193
Press section: Harald Hoyer, Tel: (+43-1) 71100-2058
mailto:presseabteilung@bmwa.gv.at
http://www.bmwa.gv.at

 

Date: 20.02.2006