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Minister claims UK is setting example to Europe



The UK is doing well, with flexible and innovative policies in getting more long-term unemployed people back to work, a European Commission report revealed to European Union employment Ministers.

Employment Minister Tessa Jowell said: "This is stark contrast to a decade ago when Brussels was arguing for a rigid system of employment regulation across Europe. The UK domestic economic policies operating then, unlike now, left people at the mercy of an unrestrained market and the spectre of soaring unemployment.

"Now in the UK we have labour flexibility which positively creates opportunities to find a route out of poverty and into a employment. This has been shown with 700,000 more people in Britain into jobs since May 1997, giving a UK employment figure of 27.5 million people."

Tessa Jowell was speaking after a meeting in Brussels of the Social Affairs Council, which discussed new employment recommendations for each member state and moves to strengthen employment guidelines for the year 2000. The Council agreed to forward the proposals for discussion at the Helsinki EU Summit next month.

Tessa Jowell said: "I welcome the recommendations the Council made to the UK to promote child-care policies and reduce the gender pay gap. Our national child care strategy is key in supporting employment, and tackling the pay gap addresses the long-term disadvantage women have faced in the labour market.

" Britain’s jobs record has rightly been acknowledged in the EU in the employment report we discussed, the first to be brought forward under the provisions of the EU Amsterdam Treaty. It pointed out that the proportion of people in work, the employment rate, is higher in Britain than the European average and that we had made ‘significant progress’ in reducing youth and long-term unemployment through the New Deal - 155,500 young people back to work through the New Deal alone, with youth unemployment down by over 70 per cent since this Government took office.

"Our jobs record underlines the government’s sound economic policies which have built a platform of economic stability and sustained growth. Today, in Brussels, the Social Affairs Council’s acknowledgment of our success was yet another independent endorsement, adding to the support we have recently won from the IMF and the OECD, and is in line with the recent CBI forecast of further employment growth over the next two years of just under 250,000 new jobs."

Tessa Jowell pointed out that a more flexible approach in job creation has shown that for the first time since 1990, employment has risen in all EU member states - 1.8 million new jobs, or an average increase of 2.9 per cent.

She added: "We welcome this improvement, which reflects a move away from rigid and proscriptive employment regulation to employment guidelines based on flexibility, employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities.

"However, we want to go even further, and at next year’s special European Council in Lisbon we will be pressing for new, clear, strategic goals for Europe, including IT skills, which will help lift the EU’s economy to match the best in the world."


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