The informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 7 and 8 February in Dublin.
On the first day, there were three simultaneous workshops covering: active inclusion for jobless households; job-rich recovery, key actions for future skills needs in ICT; and labour market engagement of older women. The UK attended the first workshop on jobless households and agreed that professional skills were important, but that benefit systems also needed to make work pay and labour markets had to be flexible. The challenge was providing tailored support to young people and that work experience had proved to be a valuable measure in helping young people find and keep work.
On the second day, there were two main plenary discussions. In the first discussion on youth guarantee, some member states called for flexibility both in the list of measures and the implementation deadline. The UK called for the current four-month deadline to be extended to six, suggesting that the focus should be on those most in need rather than those who re-enter the labour market within a short period of time by themselves. The Commission remained adamant that both the list of measures and the deadline had to remain closed. The presidency subsequently circulated a revised text which stated that gradual implementation of the recommendation could be considered for countries with highest levels of youth unemployment.
The second discussion was on a proposal for benchlearning across European public employment services (PES) and the potential legal formalisation of the head of public employment services (HoPES) network. The UK welcomed both proposals, but cautioned against blanket targets and measurements.