Open Job Markets Helped Nations Ride Out Crisis, EU Says

Countries such as Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden were better able to survive the European Union’s financial crisis because of more-flexible labor markets, EU Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said.

These nations tend to offer unemployment benefits that are widely available and also responsive to the economic cycle, Thyssen said today in Brussels. They also have the best track records on measures like moving from temporary to permanent contracts.

“The countries that have more open and less segmented labor markets are the ones that have shown bigger resilience to crisis,” Thyssen said. “They make greater use of short-time working arrangements, and invest more in lifelong learning.”

Across the EU, 6.7 million jobs were destroyed between 2008 and the first quarter of 2013, according to the EU’s annual labor trends study. The report, released today, found that the economic-growth outlook has been held back by weak demand, suggesting nations need to take a more active role to jumpstart expansion.

The report calls on nations to invest more in human capital and to improve productivity, while noting that “a more expansionary fiscal stance in the euro area as a whole, within the limits of rules on national budgets, would also be helpful.” Structural reforms won’t have much impact unless demand rebounds at the same time, according to the report.

Thyssen said the EU is working on how to encourage more workers to move where the jobs are.

“The commission will adopt a mobility package toward the end of this year, with the aim to facilitate labor mobility in a fair way and tackle abuses by means of better coordination of social security systems,” Thyssen said.

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