Bloomberg News

Germany’s Von der Leyen Urges European Labor Market to Spur Jobs

June 27, 2013

German Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she’ll push to create a Europe-wide labor market with common training, mutually recognized qualifications and language classes that allow people to move to where the work is.

Von der Leyen, who is coordinating a jobs summit with labor ministers from all 27 European Union member states in Berlin on July 3, said that better mobility is key to helping match people in countries like Portugal burdened with youth unemployment of 42.5 percent with jobs in Germany, where 34,000 training places are vacant.

“I think in terms of a European labor market and no longer national labor markets,” Von der Leyen, 54, said in an interview in Berlin yesterday. “A young Spaniard has to know where there’s a training place vacant in Germany or Austria.”

European leaders meeting in Brussels today are shifting their focus from three years of crisis fighting to longer-term efforts to tackle unemployment that has reached a record 12.2 percent in the 17-nation euro region. By contrast, joblessness in Germany fell in June to a two-decade low of 6.8 percent, figures released yesterday showed.

EU leaders seeking to address unemployment among under-25s that has surpassed 50 percent in Spain and Greece plan to “front-load” 6 billion euros ($7.8 billion) in aid already made available, Von der Leyen said. To that can be added 16 billion euros from European structural funds, yielding a total of 22 billion euros, she said.

Pilot Project

Even so, “it’s not just a question of money,” said Von der Leyen, citing a pilot project run by her ministry that paid for language lessons and travel costs to help young people in southern Europe find jobs and training places in Germany. To scale that up to a pan-European project, labor agencies must be involved and encouraged to become “very practical,” she said.

Representatives of all 27 EU countries’ labor agencies will attend the Berlin summit along with 20 heads of state and government including French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, she said. The aim is to “fill the decision of the European summit with life,” she said.

Among the measures needed are Europe-wide recognition of qualifications and, longer term, common European training based on the German dual-education system, whereby apprenticeships at mainly private companies are combined with vocational education in about 350 professions. The dual-education system in particular “was the trigger that caused youth unemployment to sink in Germany 10 years ago,” she said. It is “the secret of our success right now.”

“There’s a real readiness to embrace change right now in Europe,” said Von der Leyen, who was families minister in Merkel’s first-term government and said that she’d like to serve again as labor minister after Sept. 22 elections. “The crisis can also be an opportunity that pushes us forward.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.net; David Tweed in Berlin at dtweed@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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