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EU: Employment and Social Policy Ministers' Meeting

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 29 January 2009

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw) has made the following Statement.

The Informal Meeting of Employment and Social Policy Ministers was held on 22 to 23 January 2009 in Luhacovice, Czech Republic. I represented the United Kingdom along with my right honourable friend Pat McFadden (Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs in Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform).

The theme of this informal was mobility—a bridge between the labour market demand and the supply of working skills. Its aim was to highlight the role of workforce mobility in enhancing labour market flexibility, social cohesion and economic growth in the European Union.

Following on from the opening session, when representatives from the European institutions and social partners outlined their views, the meeting was split into three plenary sessions, each devoted to specific challenges linked to mobility: job mobility, geographical mobility and social mobility. For the United Kingdom, I intervened on the job mobility session, supporting the European Union economic recovery plan and the European Union skills review, and described some of the recent United Kingdom initiatives in response to the current economic crisis. The presidency and many member states stressed the undiminished importance of mobility, particularly for those furthest from the labour market. The key role of education and skills to ensure the rapid re-inclusion of workers was highlighted. The presidency concluded that the current financial and economic crisis only highlighted the need for greater workforce mobility.

The meeting concluded with a ministerial discussion on the working time directive, attended by Pat McFadden. The United Kingdom and many other member states argued that retaining the opt-out continued to be an absolute priority. The presidency stated that it would try and facilitate an agreement with the European Parliament during the conciliation process but that finding an agreement would not be easy.