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Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs Marjeta Cotman: Introductory Address at the Conference ‘Jobs for Youth – Prosperity for All’

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Ladies and gentlemen,

May I wish you all a warm welcome to Slovenia. I am delighted that you have accepted our invitation to participate in this Slovenian Presidency Conference, the basic purpose of which is to contribute to improving the position of young people in Europe. I would like to take this opportunity to cordially thank the European Commission for its help and support in preparing this event.

The Slovenian Presidency takes as its fundamental premise the principle that Europe needs to invest in people in order to provide for the future. Attention is, therefore, focused on promoting the employment of young people. The successful integration of young people into the labour market is one of the most important challenges we face in the European Union. Young people, considered to be the driving force of every society, find themselves in an unenviable situation when seeking good work opportunities. Young people are undoubtedly the most flexible group within the active population; nevertheless, measures to ensure security and stability are required.

Finding the balance between security and flexibility in practice is a key task of policy-makers in the process of modernising labour markets. This was a topic discussed by the Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs at their informal meeting in Slovenia in February this year. We agreed that, in developing comprehensive flexicurity arrangements at national level, special measures should target particular groups of people such as young people, the elderly and women.

Since young people, above all, need an environment enabling individuals to develop their potential and self-realisation, measures must be aimed at achieving the following objectives:

  1. making the transition from the school system to the labour market as easy as possible;
  2. 'equipping' individuals with the knowledge, skills and competences they need to cope successfully with the requirements of the market;
  3. ensuring high-quality secure employment and appropriate social security within the (shortest possible) bridging periods;
  4. promoting professional and geographical mobility while ensuring high-quality and secure employment;
  5. eliminating obstacles to a young person's freedom to decide to start a family; and
  6. creating conditions for easier reconciliation of professional, family and private life.

The successful implementation of these objectives requires the following in particular: 1) joint efforts by society as a whole at European, national, regional and local level, and 2) the coordination of policies, particularly economic, employment, social and educational policies. The social partners must play a key role both in drawing up and implementing measures.


Ladies and gentlemen,

There are mechanisms in place at European level, such as the Lisbon Strategy, the open method of coordination, the social agenda, the common principles of flexicurity and others, aimed at achieving goals in the area of the labour market and social policy.

I believe they are appropriate and produce results. In the near future, the main focus should be on implementation of the measures already adopted to achieve the Lisbon objectives at national level and to frame appropriate measures to transpose the common principles of flexicurity into national reform programmes. The onus is on the Member States.

At European level, we should facilitate the exchange of information on good practices, but also on bad practices. Let us take the opportunity to participate in mutual learning and encourage national reforms.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Today's conference, as I see it, is an opportunity for mutual learning and sharing experiences. Its main goal is to contribute to defining policy guidelines and to identifying appropriate measures that would facilitate the better integration of young people into the labour market.

The discussions will take the form of four modules:

  1. the first module on new forms of employment will focus on the question of how to find an appropriate balance between security and flexibility and will discuss the role of various actors in this process;
  2. the second module will be dedicated to youth mobility and its effects;
  3. the third module will discuss the education and training of young people which are, on the one hand, of key importance to individuals in enabling them to meet the challenges of the labour market, and, on the other hand, call for intensified efforts by policy-makers in this area so as to provide for more balanced supply and demand conditions in the labour market; the Scholarship Act, adopted last year, is rated as an example of good practice in Slovenia. This legislative act has introduced many innovations and improvements and is the first in Slovenia aimed at increasing the number of national scholarships and at enabling the socially disadvantaged to access higher education.
  4. reconciliation of professional and family life is the theme of the fourth module. This is a very important topic in the context of discussions about promoting youth employment, as well as about meeting demographic challenges.

Tomorrow's discussion will be devoted to looking into the future.


Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by stressing that the European Union is not merely an economic project. We have to bear that in mind when shaping measures aimed at promoting youth employment. We must pursue our common goal: to provide every individual in the European Union with the possibility of and the opportunity for a dignified high-quality life and working life. The achievement of this goal requires the modernisation of labour markets and the simultaneous provision to citizens of an effective network of social security measures, which certainly constitutes an added value and a particular feature of the European environment.

I hope your discussions will be productive. Thank you.


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Date: 24.04.2008