European Union action to promote the local employment initiatives
FOREWORD BY JACQUES DELORS
Over the last few years, several tens of thousands of jobs have been created in Europe in the personal services, leisure and environment sectors as a result of local initiatives. Young people and jobseekers, with or without qualifications, have thus been able to gain access to the labour market, acquire new professional skills and contribute to the economic and social development of their regions, towns or villages.
As a reflection of an innovative society anxious to promote solidarity, improve its quality of life and preserve its diversity, local employment initiatives have come to occupy a vital place in our economies and employment systems. Experts and governments agree that they still offer considerable potential for growth.
However, this had not always been the case. When, in 1993 in the White Paper "Growth, Competitiveness, Employment" and in 1994 at the European Council meeting in Essen, the European Commission suggested that services responding to the new needs of the population and local development might offer ways to combat unemployment, the idea could be seen as far-fetched. The results that followed, however, proved it right. National governments and local authorities backed this grassroots movement by launching programmes to exploit new sources of employment and, in some cases, by adapting financing arrangements and legal frameworks.
Although they are in theory far removed from the modest initiatives implemented at local level, the European Commission and other institutions have a role to play in their development. By disseminating good practice and encouraging transnational and interregional cooperation networks, the European Union can help local pilot projects break out of their isolation and achieve a higher profile. By stimulating innovation, it can trigger the groundswell needed to apprehend the full diversity of new prospects that are opening up for Europe. This pathfinding role ought to be fully recognised by granting the European Commission adequate structures and resources.
This study by Marjorie Jouen, a researcher with Notre Europe, reviews the pilot scheme conducted since 1994 and draws a few conclusions for the future.