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EU, labour market organisations and NGOs want to develop the quality of working life and wellbeing at work

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 6.7.2006 15.30
Press release -

On the first day of the informal meeting of EU employment, social affairs and health ministers Finland and the employment and social affairs ministers of the two next Presidency countries (Germany and Portugal) met with NGO and labour market organisations at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki.

Minister of Labour Tarja Filatov chaired the joint meeting of social affairs ministers and labour market organisations. The Minister of Social Affairs and Health Tuula Haatainen, the employment and social affairs ministers of the two next Presidency countries, Franz Müntefering of Germany, and José Vierira de Silva of Portugal, Commissioner Vladimir Spidla and representatives of European and Finnish labour market organisations also took part in the meeting.

The participants discussed how to respond to the challenges brought about by globalisation and population ageing. The meeting affirmed that globalisation is both a challenge and an opportunity. They need to be met jointly. The development of the quality of working life is central. The role of labour market organisations in this work is important.

Increasing productivity in a socially sustainable way is a key factor, which in the future will be secured by the European Social Model. Amidst populationageing the growth of productivity will help Europe adapt to having an ageing workforce and to increased costs incurred by care for older people.

The participants in the meeting considered it important to discuss the ‘flexicurity’ (flexible security) of working life and in relation to it productivity, the organisation of work and balancing working and other areas of life. It was stated at the meeting that there should be European general principles created for flexicurity.

Decent work is a European competitive asset in global economic competition. Work that respects fair game rules is also important from the viewpoint of productivity and welfare for businesses operating in developing countries and their employees.

Health at work, equality in working life

Minister of Social Affairs and health Tuula Haatainen chaired the joint meeting of employment and social affairs ministers and NGOs. Also taking part in the meeting were Minister Filatov, the employment and social affairs ministers of the troika countries, Commissioner Spidla and European and Finnish NGO representatives.

The meeting affirmed that social participation is a major challenge for Europe. Exclusion is seen as a common threat. NGOs drew attention to health at work and expressed the hope for a common European strategy for how mental health issues can be taken up as a subject for discussion in working life. Exclusion starts at an early age and to prevent it equal opportunities for training and work as well as access to various social and health service areas must be assured.

NGO representatives lauded the Finnish programmes to promote wellbeing in working life, which have focused on the challenges of ageing and remaining in employment. In this area Finns have much to contribute in the European debate. Ageing and prolonged life are not, however, just challenges, but rather and opportunity and above all an indication that the European welfare model works.

NGO representatives stressedthat at the same time that flexible solutions are sought for working life, means also need to be sought to guarantee social security. The participants also emphasised that it is important to find models for the better harmonisation of family life and work and for gender equality, for instance by a broader sphere of care in working life. The gender viewpoint must also be taken into account in the development of social protection systems.

At Thursday’s press conference, in addition to Commissioner Spidla there will also be the following representatives of labour market organisations: The General Secretary of the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE) Philippe de Buck, the Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Maria Helena André, the Chairman of Social Affairis Committee, CEEP- European Centre of Entreprises with Public Participation and of Entreprises of General Economic Interest Charles Nolda, the representative of the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) Director Rauno Vanhanen, the Director General of the Confederation of Finnish Industries Leif Fagernäs, and the President of the Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals (AKAVA) Risto Piekka.

Advance press material from the labour market organisations can be accessed on the website of the Ministry of Labour

Further information:

Ministerial Counsellor Liisa Heinonen, Ministry of Labour. Tel: 010 60 48017, 050 396 0155

Project Manager Outi Kuivasniemi, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Tel: 09-160 73230, 050 435 0269

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