The EU labour market is gradually recovering and, for the first time since 2011, GDP, employment and household incomes are growing. However, long-term unemployment is still increasing and the situation of households with low incomes has not improved. These are some of the main conclusions of the European Commission's latest Employment and Social Situation Quarterly Review. The Review also highlights persistent challenges for women in terms of unemployment and under-employment and provides an update on recent trends in worker mobility, confirming higher employment rates for mobile workers and their increasingly higher levels of education.
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, commented "Many people are still experiencing serious difficulties in finding a job, in particular those who have been unemployed for a long time. As emphasised in the 2014 Country Specific Recommendations, Member States must do more to support job creation and combat social exclusion, notably through active labour market policies and greater social investment. Giving every young person a real chance in the labour market by implementing the Youth Guarantee is an urgent priority, and more needs to be done also to help the long-term unemployed".
Among recent positive signs, the Quarterly Review points out that jobs are being created in the private sector, mainly in services, and unemployment continues to fall, even if moderately. However, current employment levels (with about 224 million employed persons) are still below their pre-crisis level (of about 230 million employed persons in mid-2008) and unemployment rates remain close to historically high levels (10.4 % in April 2014, following a peak rate of 10.9% observed throughout the first half of 2013).
There are wide divergences in levels of unemployment between Member States, and the quality of jobs remains a concern, since growth in employment is mainly driven by temporary and part-time jobs. Most worrying, long term unemployment continues to increase in countries with the highest unemployment rates.
The labour market situation remains very difficult for young people under 25, with an unemployment rate of 22.5% in April 2014, while employment growth has so far primarily benefited older workers (55-64). Young people are also the hardest hit by underemployment and feel discouraged to look for work.
To support the transition from school to work, the Commission has proposed Country Specific Recommendations to Member States on improving public employment services,education and training, boosting apprenticeships, and urgently implementing theYouth Guarantee.
Women still working less
Even if gender gaps have narrowed in the EU over recent years, the latest available data show that unemployment is decreasing less for women than for men. Furthermore, women tend to be significantly more under-employed in all age groups (involuntarily working part-time), and large differences persist between countries in women's labour market participation rates and working hours.
The Commission has also proposed Country Specific Recommendations to a number of Member States to encourage women to take up work, notably by providing quality and affordable childcare and reducing fiscal disincentives. Increasing female participation in the labour market is indeed crucial to reach the employment target set in theEU 2020 Strategy (75% of those between 20 and 64 years old).
Mobile citizens: more often employed and highly educated
Recent trends in workers' mobility in the EU confirm that mobile EU citizens have higher employment rates than locals and do not use social security benefits more than locals. Analysis also shows that, while mobility in the EU decreased during 2010-2011, it has started recovering in 2012-2013, although with marked differences between countries. In particular, countries hardest hit by the economic crisis have seen large increases in outflows of workers to other Member States as well as to non-EU countries.
Compared to the pre-crisis years (2004-2008), the number of workers moving within the EU from southern countries has increased (+38%) while the flows declined from Poland (-41%) and Romania (-33%), the two top countries of origin. Mobile workers from southern countries now make up 18% of the overall flows of intra-EU movers compared to 11% before, while the majority of intra-EU movers in 2009-2013 still originate in central and eastern Member States (58%) despite a decline (from 65% in 2004-08).
Mobile EU workers are heading more than before towards Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Nordic countries, and less to Spain and Ireland, while overall Germany and the UK are the top two destination countries.
In terms of age composition, intra-EU movers remain predominantly young, but the share of those aged 15-29 declined (from 48% to 41%). Finally, mobile EU workers are much more likely to be more highly educated (41% having tertiary education during 2009-13) than before (27% during 2004-08).
The right to free movement of workers within the EU was enshrined in the Treaty more than 50 years ago and is one of the pillars of the Single Market. To make the exercise of this right easier, the Commission proposed a new Directive, adopted in April 2014 by the EU's Council of Ministers (IP/14/421), to remove existing obstacles faced by mobile workers, such as the lack of awareness of EU rules among public and private employers and difficulties to get information, assistance and redress in host Member States. The Commission has also proposed to further improve the pan-European job search networkEURES, to make more job offers and more Curriculum Vitae available for those wishing to work in or to recruit from other Member States (IP/14/26).