EU creates record number of jobs

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EMPLOYMENT HAS risen in all the EU's member states for the first time this decade. The EU has created 1.8 million new jobs, an average increase of 2.9 per cent, in the past two years, according to a European Commission report on member states' employment policies due to be presented to next month's Helsinki summit.

The Commission praised the UK for its success in getting the long-term unemployed back to work in the report, which was discussed by employment ministers in Brussels yesterday. It recommended further measures to promote child care policies and reduce the gap between mens' and womens' pay.

Tessa Jowell, the UK's employment minister, welcomed the recommendations. She said the UK had enough jobs market flexibility to create routes out of poverty, with 700,000 more people in work since May 1997. Department for Employment and Education figures suggest the New Deal in particular has taken 155,500 young people into work, with youth unemployment down by 70 per cent.

Additional flexibility had also boosted job prospects in other EU countries, she said. "We welcome this improvement, which reflects a move away from rigid and proscriptive employment regulation to employment guidelines based on flexibility, employability, entrepreneurship and equal opportunities."

Britain is pushing for a special European Council meeting in Lisbon in March to focus on entrepreneurship and new technology, as the next stage in the EU's jobs strategy.

New Deal, page 20