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EU President Romano Prodi
"I know what we have to deliver"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 16:09 GMT
Europe's jobless millions

Britain squeezes benefits to cut unemployment
Jobs are the number one priority at the moment for most European governments - which is hardly surprising when you look at Europe's unemployment figures.

US vs Europe
US - 4.3%

Spain - 15.1
Finland - 10.0
France - 9.6
Germany - 8.8
Belgium - 8.6
Sweden - 6.4
Britain - 5.9
Ireland - 5.8
Austria - 4.2
Portugal - 4.2
Netherlands - 2.7
Luxembourg - 2.6
Some 15 million people in the European Union are jobless. Unemployment in the Euro zone currently stands just below 10% of the workforce, compared to 4.3% in the United States.

And more redundancies are predicted as a result of mega mergers, like the one between the Deutsche and Dresdener banks.

Creating a common "employment strategy" to meet the demands of the new economy is the main aim of the EU Lisbon summit.

At the moment, the 15 countries that make up the European Union are tackling their job problems in rather different ways.

Crucial differences

All European Union governments have now agreed that they should aim for full employment. But they still disagree about how to achieve this.

  • France has cut the working week to 35 hours, and introduced early retirement programmes. Germany is considering similar programmes.

  • Britain has achieved its relatively low unemployment level of 5.9% by clamping down on welfare and fixing a low minimum wage. It has also urged more deregulation of markets.

  • Britain and Italy have called for radical reform of European labour markets. They condemn attempts to cut unemployment by taking people out of the labour market.

    "Reducing the size of the labour force is not the way forward. There is no evidence that it works," said a joint letter by the two prime ministers.

  • Britain and Spain have opposed early retirement programmes, calling on the EU to make more use of older employees.

New hope

However, unemployment is in fact gradually falling across Europe, giving many cause for greater optimism.

As new president of the EU, Portugal, has declared that the EU should aim to become the most dynamic economic zone in the world within a decade.

tony blair
Tony Blair wants e-commerce to be more competitive in Europe
This sentiment is echoed strongly by UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who has called for "a dynamic knowledge-based economy".

An important part of the Lisbon summit will be working out a common strategy for building an internet-based economy, aimed at making e-business a source of jobs, growth and social stability.

Europe's ability to generate jobs, innovation and economic growth has been dismal compared to the US, particularly around the internet, where revenues are four times those in the EU.

But the summit hopes that by setting concrete goals for using new technology, the EU will overtake the US within 10 years.

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07 Mar 00 | Business
Europe faces IT skills shortage
19 Mar 00 | Business
E-commerce needs e-reform
22 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Euro leaders bid for e-commerce boom
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