Blunkett pushes for labour market reform as UK takes up EU baton

Europe must pick up the pace of labour market reform if it is to achieve its ambitious 70% employment target over the next five years, David Blunkett warned today.

The work and pensions secretary said there were successful schemes across the continent to tackle the twin blights of joblessness and inactivity to ensure delivery of the Lisbon agenda on employment and growth.

Blunkett, chairing a two-day meeting of European employment ministers in Belfast, said: “Jobs and growth must be Europe’s top priority. It is a human tragedy and a terrible waste that 20 million Europeans are unemployed – the main cause of poverty in Europe.

“But unemployment is only part of the story. There are almost five times more people of working age who are economically inactive than there are unemployed – a total of 92 million. Many would like to work, but need help because of long-term illness, or incapacity or because of lack of skills.

“It is by tackling unemployment and poor economic growth that we can show Europe and its institutions are focused on what matters to people.

The meeting of ministers in Belfast is the first major ministerial event of both the UK presidency of the European Union and the DWP’s schedule of key events -a series of conferences in the UK covering social inclusion, health and safety, employment, inactivity and rehabilitation, and occupational health, which will drive forward a reform programme over the next six months.

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