WASHINGTON – The European Commission and the U.S. Department of Labor compared practices and policies used to fight against long-term unemployment at a roundtable discussion in Washington on May 11, 2016.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor Christopher P. Lu hosted the event and was joined by Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, who headed a delegation of representatives of the European Commission, labor ministries and public employment services from several EU Member States. Deputy Secretary Lu was joined by representatives from the department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Employment and Training Administration, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of the Chief Economist and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, as well as representatives from academia and the private sector.
The roundtable offered the leaders opportunities to exchange policy approaches and best practices in combating long-term unemployment. On May 6, 2016, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez announced the nation’s unemployment rate had fallen to 5 percent with two-thirds of the rate’s decline in the last year coming from the ranks of the long-term unemployed. In the EU, long-term unemployment decreased in 2015 by 1.2 million, a 10 percent improvement compared to 2014. EU and U.S. leaders discussed the progress made and the need for concerted action to reduce long-term unemployment, including strong partnerships between business, local governments and community organizations.
Commissioner Thyssen outlined the EU’s action to tackle long-term unemployment, through a Council Recommendation to its Member States. The recommendation calls for a personalized plan to return to work, a “Job Integration Agreement” for all jobseekers who have been out of work for more than 12 months. Participants shared direct experience from employment services in furthering individualized support.
Deputy Secretary Lu noted that the roundtable took place almost 20 years to the day from when the department and the commission signed the memorandum of understanding establishing the U.S. – EU Working Group on Employment and Labor-Related Issues. “For more than two decades, we have enjoyed a robust and constructive relationship with the EU. Together, we have addressed many of the most pressing labor and employment issues,” Lu said. He also discussed the department’s Ready-to-Work grants – nearly $170 million in grants to expedite the re-employment of Americans struggling with long-term unemployment – and the modernization of the U.S. workforce system through the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Commissioner Thyssen added: “I welcome the increasing EU-U.S. cooperation on global labor and employment issues, such as long-term unemployment or the development of apprenticeships. Deeper dialogue leads to improved policies.” Recognizing the successful cooperation achieved so far, both parties agree to further exchanges on evidence-based policies and facilitating stronger partnerships on both sides of the Atlantic.