Employment Council : Ministers Recommend Measures to Promote Employment
The Union's employment and social affairs ministers support the introduction of measures to make work more attractive, as proposed by the European Commission. On 7 March, they adopted the Joint employment report' (one of the five elements of the annual growth survey, presented on 12 January) as well as conclusions on the report. The Council's conclusions suggest the use of taxes on activities with negative externalities rather than on labour, measures to encourage the employment of second-earners (mainly women) and to combat undeclared work, and the use of more effective in-work benefits, such as tax credits. Conversely, the ministers note that unemployment benefit systems should be designed to make work pay. Such measures must be included in the national reform programmes to be presented in mid-April.
The conclusions were adopted as part of the policy debate on the European semester', focused on three subjects: review of the annual growth survey, difficulties implementing the ten-year strategy known as Europe 2020', and the most urgent measures needed in the field of employment and social inclusion.
Discussions also focused on competitiveness ("not the pact," explained the Presidency, which is not a member of the eurozone).
Belgium fiercely defended wage indexation, opposed by Paris and Berlin in their pact for the eurozone. "It is clear that wages must be linked to productivity. However, that does not call the indexing system into question because it will not hinder productivity if if is correctly negotiated with the social partners," declared Belgian Employment Minister Joelle Milquet. Cyprus and Malta reiterated that this is a national responsibility, since "salaries depend on different factors like GDP, prices, the existence of a minimum wage and the like, and therefore are a member state competence". …