Work, jobs, employment have always featured very prominently in the political arena. This aspect of economics is often a deal breaker and election clincher in many countries , including Malta. Promise the electorate the prospects of employment and you have their votes! And so it should be. It is only by securing employment can one ensure a decent living, dignified existence for oneself and for a family, if there is one to feed. My contemporaries can surely remember a number of electoral campaigns where the issue of work, or lack of it, was central. It is therefore, not surprising, that even nowadays, work and job creation still find themselves at the forefront not only of national, but also of European politics.
The current economic crisis in Europe has been described by many as being primarily a jobs -crisis rather than an economic and financial one. We have seen unemployment levels in the countries hit hardest by this crisis, skyrocket to unprecedented levels. The situation amongst younger job seekers is even more alarming. Such persistently high levels of long term unemployment have, however, brought about not only major economic problems but also social hardships which are much more difficult to confront. Long term unemployment has in fact been linked with a rise of crime, violence and even religious radicalisation. As politicians, it is therefore our duty to do everything in our power in order to stop this very worrying trend.
The Socialist and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament, of which I am a member, has been at the forefront of this battle. From the very beginning of this economic crisis we have argued that the solution does not lie in savage austerity, but rather in sustainable economic reforms which would help our economies grow and, in turn create new jobs. Unfortunately, this advice was not adhered to and we now can all see the results. Countries which adopted growth inducing measures, such as the US, have seen there unemployment rates decline. On the other hand, the European Union with its relentless push for austerity has experienced the exact opposite.
A number of solutions have been proposed by the S&D group in the European Parliament. Amongst them, the Youth Guarantee Scheme.
Although a positive step forward, the YGS is not enough. To this end, the S&D group have formed a special ad hoc group in order to focus on these issues. The S&D Jobs contact group, led by Hannes Swoboda himself ( President , S&D group) , is made up of a select number of MEPs who meet regularly in order to discuss and come up with concrete policy proposals which can help to foster growth and sustainable jobs in the EU. I am very proud that I have been asked by Mr Swoboda himself to form part of this steering group, as I believe that his group means business.
The task at hand is definitely not an easy one. Each member state has its own particular characteristics and background which one must take into consideration in order to come up with an effective solution. There is no such thing as one size fits all solutions, nor is a cut and paste strategy suitable. We must accept that today’s reality is fundamentally different from what it was, even from a decade ago. There are differences between big and small counties; between those in the north and those in the south, and between those which fall under different Objective classifications. We must ensure that the end result is that of the creation of a just, stable and sustainable economy, as well as, of a fairer society.
It is only by working towards a fair society that we can assure ourselves that the current crisis does not repeat itself in the future. That is the best legacy that we can leave for our children. In my role as an MEP and member of the S&D initiative ´Jobs for Europe’ , I intend to do my utmost to ensure that this happens, and that Malta will benefit fully from this initiative. After all, MEPs are elected to make a difference to their constituents. And what is more effective than to provide the nation with opportunities for the present working generation, and chart an exciting and promising future for the next ?