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Procedure : 2012/2003(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0263/2012

Texts tabled :

A7-0263/2012

Debates :

PV 19/11/2012 - 25
CRE 19/11/2012 - 25

Votes :

PV 20/11/2012 - 6.8
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0419

Debates
Monday, 19 November 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

25. Social Investment Pact (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the report (A7-0263/2012) by Danuta Jazłowiecka, on behalf of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, on the Social Investment Pact – as a response to the crisis (2012/2003(INI)).

 
  
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  Danuta Jazłowiecka, rapporteur. − (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, it gives me immense pleasure today to present this report on the Social Investment Pact – as a response to the crisis, which the members of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs adopted almost unanimously at its meeting on 10 July this year. The report is part of the wide-ranging debate which has been going on for several years at European level concerning the strategy for overcoming the economic and social crisis. As a result of the crisis, which continues to be a real threat to the stability of many European Union countries, we have had to contend for a long time with huge problems on the European labour market, with unemployment at over 10 %, a high level of youth unemployment and a chronic shortage of jobs for people with low qualifications. The situation is aggravated by demographic problems, an education and training system unsuited to the needs of the labour market and growing pressure on the social security system. All the measures aimed at restoring the stability of public finances in the European Union and the associated budgetary spending cuts were, and continue to be, necessary in order to ensure the stability of the European economy. Without them, the effects of the crisis would undoubtedly be even more painful. However, those measures need to be accompanied by well-directed social investments, aimed at preparing citizens for the changing economic conditions and needs of the labour market.

The crisis demands that Member States rethink their social policies and effectively transform the welfare state into an activating state that invests in people and gives its citizens hope and incentive, rather than simply reacting to damage caused by the imperfections of the market. Member States’ budgetary policies must therefore be supplemented, among other things, by measures aimed at achieving a lasting improvement on the labour market, promoting investment in education and training, and combating poverty and social exclusion. Social investments cover many different policy areas and are therefore essential for ensuring a proper level of employment and greater European competitiveness. Since their purpose is to reconcile social and economic aims, governments must treat them not as expenditure but, above all, as investments that will yield real profit in the future.

Experience shows that previous attempts at a coordinated European Union approach to social investments, such as the Lisbon Strategy and the European Employment Strategy, failed because of poor management. It is accordingly essential to ensure better monitoring of the implementation of social and employment policies in the Member States. In the report, we therefore propose that the Member States accede to the Social Investment Pact, which will enable us to establish better machinery for managing and monitoring implementation of the employment, social policy and education objectives laid down, inter alia, in the Europe 2020 strategy. The monitoring of those policies must also figure in the European Semester 2013. In addition, if these measures are to become a reality, the multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020 will have to include adequate budget funding for social investments.

In presenting a report entitled the ‘Social Investment Pact – as a response to the crisis’, I wish to stress very clearly that every recommendation it contains is the outcome of far-reaching agreement among all the political groups. Let me take this opportunity to thank the shadow rapporteurs most warmly for their constructive and effective work on the provisions of the report, as well as all colleagues who have tabled amendments. I would also like to express my gratitude to Professor Frank Broeker, in particular, whose scholarly work inspired me to draw up a report on the subject of social investments. I call on the representative of the European Commission to act on the recommendations contained in the report and propose instruments that will enable a set of good ideas to be put into practice, and thus make it possible for our European society to cope with the present difficult situation. Thank you.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Roberta Angelilli (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in Europe we are witnessing a constant worsening of the unemployment figures for the under-35s, which now approach 25 %, and in some Member States are more than 50 %. It must certainly not be the young who pay for this crisis. However, while it is true that we cannot wriggle out of the measures for austerity and rebalancing the budgets, it is also true that, in parallel with this, we need a concrete and ambitious investment strategy, starting with investment in education and Community programmes such as Erasmus.

Therefore the work carried out by Ms Jazłowiecka on a Social Investment Pact is excellent – as is the European youth guarantee, which will ensure that every young person will have the right to work, an apprenticeship or training.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, the rate of unemployment in the EU 27 has risen above 10 %, and the EU is facing extremely serious problems with youth unemployment. Another pressing issue is the situation of low-skilled workers, who face constantly decreasing labour demand, and the increasing number of people living in poverty and at risk of social exclusion.

Recent responses to the crisis lack a social and employment policy dimension. The aim of social investments is to prepare individuals, families and societies to adapt to changing economic conditions and labour market demands. Economic governance and macroeconomic supervision should be complemented by measures on social and employment policy.

We call on the Commission and Member States to adopt a concrete and adequately funded strategy on social investments, including through the European Social Fund.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, I too commend the initiative of my colleagues, which I regard as extremely important in the current context. I agree that there should be a reorientation from States with a socialist agenda to States that invest in job creation and generate competitiveness. My main concern is the situation of young people, because they are the ones most affected by the economic crisis, and youth unemployment has reached an alarming level. Against this background, vocational training programmes are vital, and the re-establishment of vocational schools has an important place in this.

Jobs should be created by exploiting our own mineral resources too, not just via foreign investment. Facilities should also be provided to encourage employers to take on young people, by decreasing employers’ contributions. However, measures are needed at EU level too. I call on the Commission to put forward proposals to support young people, in line with the European Council’s conclusions of January.

 
  
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  Antigoni Papadopoulou (S&D). – Mr President, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on her well-written report.

The PPE Group acknowledges that austerity measures are not sufficient to overcome the crisis. The S&D Group strongly believes that there is a need to go beyond fiscal discipline.

Budget consolidation needs to be complemented by a social investment strategy that will address the social, employment and education targets of the EU 2020 strategy. We call for a Social Investment Pact which invests in social and employment policies. The aim should be to create quality and sustainable jobs, reduce the economic dependency ratio in order to maintain a large workforce, and keep a balance between flexibility and security in the labour market.

We call for economic governance to be accompanied by social governance and for the Social Investment Pact to focus, among other things, on reducing the number of early school-leavers.

 
  
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  Oreste Rossi (EFD).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this presentation proposes objectives that we all support, such as combating unemployment, reintegrating the unemployed, relaunching small and medium-sized enterprises, guaranteeing the security of pension schemes – but it does not propose any measures for meeting these challenges. For example, it does not go into any depth in considering which resources the Member States should use to deal with the crisis, nor does it criticise the scandalous choice made by the European Commission in financing the banks without using the funds awarded to bring about economic upturn, thus allowing the credit institutions not to help businesses and families but to acquire government securities, ensuring a guaranteed profit for themselves at almost no risk.

Accordingly, the decision was taken, in a period of crisis like this, to finance the banks rather than to encourage an improvement in the economic structure. It would have been an excellent proposal to call on the Commission to propose removing the prohibition on direct aid to the States by the European Central Bank. I shall abstain, since the report amounts to a simple declaration of intent, on points that we all support, but which is devoid of content or concrete proposals.

 
  
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  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE).(PL) Mr President, the economic crisis and its negative effects, with which the economies of all countries are having to contend, force us to take up continuous new challenges. In the face of growing unemployment, especially youth unemployment, as well as the increasing threat of poverty and social exclusion, it is of great importance to support social investment in the widest sense, which, among other things, promotes adaptation to changes on the labour market and the acquisition of new skills.

On many occasions in this Chamber, we have discussed the need to establish mechanisms to promote labour mobility and the development of practical education and vocational training, or to counter the unequal treatment of employees on grounds of gender. All these aspects of previous discussions lose none of their importance when it comes to the Social Investment Pact. They are, moreover, an integral part of it. For that reason, I call on the Commission, in conjunction with the governments of the Member States, to establish machinery for the development of social investments, which constitute an element of great importance in combating the crisis.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski (PPE).(PL) Mr President, may I first of all congratulate the rapporteur, Ms Danuta Jazłowiecka, on an excellent report and for taking up the important subject of social investments. This report comes at a crucial moment when the European Union budget, both next year’s budget and the financial framework for 2014-2020, is a burning issue. The Union’s budget should be an investment budget that promotes a way out of economic difficulties and concentrates on areas of strategic importance for growth and employment. Social investments combining the social and economic dimensions are a good way to implement effective, long-term activities that promote adaptation to changes on the labour market and increase opportunities for youth employment by creating conditions for corporate growth and development of the social economy. For that reason, I also consider that ensuring a suitable level of financial support for social investments is a condition for the European Union economy to return to the path of growth.

 
  
 

(End of catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Johannes Hahn, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to thank the rapporteur, Ms Jazłowiecka, for this timely report.

The crisis and long-term structural challenges such as demographic ageing do indeed require sustained but effective and efficient investment in our human capital. Deepening inequalities and increasing poverty and exclusion hamper growth and threaten both our social cohesion and the sustainability of our public finances. That is why the Commission included a social investment package for growth and cohesion in its 2013 annual work programme.

The package is the Commission’s response to the challenges arising from the rapid demographic changes exacerbated by the current crisis. This translates, in particular, into difficulty in meeting the Europe 2020 strategy target of reducing by 20 million the number of people living in poverty or social exclusion by 2020.

The Commission agrees on the need, highlighted in the Social Investment Pact, for public policies that prepare people to adapt to societal and economic challenges. For this to happen, sustained investment in our human capital to raise our competitiveness must go hand in hand with social inclusion and proper social protection. By investing in social policies that empower people from an early age, strengthen their capability to cope with risks and enhance their opportunities to participate in society and the labour market, we can anticipate and prepare rather than simply repair.

The Commission shares the view that better alignment of guidance, assessment and support for Member States’ reforms is needed, which acknowledges the interconditionalities of our social and economic policies.

Finally, the Commission welcomes the balanced approach of the Social Investment Pact concerning the need to tackle both short- and medium- to longer-term challenges. These challenges call for a broad range of actions, including the identification and elimination of inefficiencies in social protection systems and the strengthening of their activating and investment orientation. The Commission will take Parliament’s resolution duly into account when preparing the social investment package and is looking forward to further dialogue to enrich its thinking and nourish the future development of social policy.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Tuesday, 20 November 2012).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Sergio Berlato (PPE), in writing. – (IT) Over the past few years, most of the responses to the economic and financial crisis have been focused on the objective of restoring sustainability in public finances, something which is fundamental to the economy of the Union. In my view, however, it is appropriate now to pay attention to the negative effects that such austerity measures can have on employment and competitiveness in Europe and to supplement them with interventions that aim to promote jobs, such as well targeted social investments. The situation in the jobs market in Europe, already a complex one, has been further exacerbated by problems relating to educational systems and the ageing population. On the one hand, the output from education in the Union is not suited to the growing need for specialised work demanded by the market, and on the other – because of the ageing population – the number of people joining the jobs market is falling. This demographic trend will have serious repercussions for the jobs market, for the potential for economic growth and for public savings. I believe that, in order to restore sustainable growth in Europe, it is imperative to meet these challenges, partly through well targeted social investments which have the objective of preparing society to manage a change to much more flexible jobs markets, of restoring sufficient levels of employment in future and of improving Europe’s competitiveness.

 
  
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  Jutta Steinruck (S&D), in writing.(DE) When we vote tomorrow on the own-initiative report on a Social Investment Pact, it will become apparent whether we finally have a cross-party understanding of how we need to tackle the crisis. Our collective response must be not simply cost-cutting measures, but specific measures to achieve the Europe 2020 targets. We can achieve these targets, but it will not happen by itself. If we want more jobs, we must make it possible for our economy to employ more people. Between 2008 and 2011, there was a 4 % fall in output in Europe (from 20 % to 16 %) which resulted in an 11 % fall in employment. On the one hand, that means that we have to invest in places where new jobs are needed. On the other hand, it also means that we have to pay special attention to the nature of these jobs: jobs must be sustainable and must offer decent employment conditions. The crisis must not be an excuse for low wages and social dumping! Europe’s economic policy must be expanded to include a compensatory social policy. We in particular, as the European Parliament, must resolutely uphold the interests of the individual in Europe. Accordingly, I would urge honourable Members to press energetically for European workers to be given back their right to decent employment!

 
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