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​Speech and responses by President of the Government at working session on "Access to the Labour Market" at Social Summit of the European Union

Gothenburg (Sweden), Friday 17 November 2017

SPEECH BY PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT

Spain suffered from an unprecedented economic crisis, with five years of negative economic growth, the loss of a great many jobs, a very serious financial crisis, a public deficit in excess of 10% and a major problem with economic competitiveness. The goal, when we came to power, was to change this, to start to enjoy economic growth and create jobs again, and fortunately we have managed to achieve this, because Spain has now enjoyed four straight years of economic growth, the last three in excess of 3%, and it is creating a little over 500,000 jobs a year.

I will just mention three ideas in relation to access to the labour market:

- First, and most importantly, in order for people to be able to work it is necessary to implement an economic policy that leads to strong, balanced and sustainable growth. If that is not the case, you can't do anything, but in order to achieve that you fundamentally need two things: first, to have healthy public accounts that generate confidence, and second, to implement structural reforms, one of which I will mention. The reform of the labour market is very important to ensure that companies can adapt to changes in the economic cycle - so that they can hire when enjoying economic growth and so that they have alternatives to dismissals when there is no economic growth. That has worked well in Spain. Hence, healthy public accounts and structural reforms.

- My second comment is that it is very important to work on education, ongoing training and active employment policies to foster access to the labour market of those groups with the greatest difficulties in achieving this - fundamentally the long-term unemployed and young people; and secondly, to harness the opportunities offered by digitalisation and technological change. We are placing great emphasis on this in Spain. Although we have a very high rate of youth unemployment, this is falling, and quickly so, compared with the situation previously.

- The third comment I want to make is about what Europe must do. I would just mention two ideas: firstly, fostering the mobility of workers by removing existing administrative burdens. I propose to work to guarantee the portability of such rights as pensions; improve the recognition of educational and professional qualifications, and increase the integration and compatibility of education systems. Secondly, structural funds, which also play a very important role in growth and employment. Such programmes as the Youth Employment Initiative and the programmes under the European Social Fund are a very positive example. To that end, I believe that the European Union should continue to push through cohesion policies as an instrument to make progress on economic and social convergence.

RESPONSE BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT

I have learned a great deal and it is also interesting to see different points of view.

I only want to make a comment on two issues that have been addressed here The first, in relation to the speeches made by the Prime Ministers of Malta and Holland, which had their consequences following the speech by a representative - as far as I am aware - of business leaders here in Sweden. Schools may be able to teach languages, impart knowledge, which is very important, and technology, but it is difficult for schools to teach character. Then, in life, there are many qualities that are purely personal, which are very important in finding a job; for example, mental fortitude, knowing how to overcome difficulties, artfulness and teamwork. This is also very important, and I will leave things there.

I wanted to make a second comment about the Social Pillar and about the need for this Social Pillar to be preceded by economic growth and job creation. Here we have heard people mention free nursery schools, job placement income for anyone, and all sorts of aid. I am in favour of all this; the problem is that, as happens to anyone who is in government, you have to manage a budget. Business leaders rightly say, "don't raise my taxes too much", while what others want is to increase spending indefinitely. Hence, let's see if we are able to strike a balance.

Europe continues to be the leading region in the world in terms of care for its citizens: the healthcare system, the education system, the pension system… None of this exists in other countries in the world. Hence, let's be aware of the good and important things we have in Europe, because they don't exist in the rest of the world and we can then improve to the extent of our possibilities.

But without economic growth you cannot do anything except make speeches.

Non official translation