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Remarks at High-Level Conference on Employment in Europe, Milan, 8 October 2014

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Mr President, dear colleagues,
Thank you for the kind words of welcome.

I am very pleased to be here today, and to discuss the most pressing issue currently facing us: the lack of jobs.

I could think of no better event to make my first appearance among you as Prime Minister. And I am very much looking forward to working closely with all of you.

My Government, which came into office only last Friday, has made jobs and employment its top priorities.
We have set ourselves an ambitious goal: to have the lowest unemployment rate in the EU by 2020.

Let me say some words on how we plan to tackle this challenge.

Firstly, by investing in people.

The key to results in employment is education, skills acquisition and life-long learning.
My Government therefore intends to ensure that every young person completes secondary education and to improve the quality and range of higher education.
This will contribute to unlocking the potential and talent of our young people, which is a major task facing us all.

My Government will also introduce a 90-day guarantee for unemployed young people.
Every young person will be offered a job, an internship, a trainee position or an education programme within a maximum 90 days of being unemployed. I am very proud to deliver this reform.
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Secondly, we need competitive economies to create more jobs.
Trade is essential to drive growth, as is innovation.
My background is in manufacturing and I understand its importance in a modern economy.

I have therefore set up an Innovation Council under my direction, for cooperation and coordination in the area of innovation policy. My Government aims to increase the share of GDP devoted to research and development.

Growth must also be sustainable.

We should boldly embrace the smart greening of our economies and societies.

The jobs of the future lie in saving our planet.
We must look more to renewable energy sources.

Important discussions await us on this issue, but it is worth recalling the long-term implications for competitiveness and job creation.

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Thirdly, we must be serious about the participation of women in the labour market.

Closing the gap between male and female employment rates would increase EU growth considerably – by more than 12 per cent by 2030, according to some estimates.

The current under-utilisation of women in the labour force represents an erosion of human capital.
This is something the EU cannot afford.

Sweden was pleased to join many other Member States, as well as the Italian Presidency, in writing a letter to the Commission on this subject.
It called for more attention to be given to gender equality in the Europe 2020 Strategy.
The headline target of 75 per cent employment for women and men by 2020 will only be reached if there is a clear and stronger commitment to gender equality.
We hope this will inform the review of the strategy.

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In closing, I believe that we have avenues and tools to address the challenge of youth unemployment.

The Europe 2020 Strategy and the European Semester provide opportunities to make progress on many of the issues raised by us today, particularly on growth-enhancing measures.

Nevertheless, one size seldom fits all.

Expansion of labour, decent work for all and structural reforms all require national action if they are to be effective and legitimate.

Sharing our experience, as we are doing today, is a great way to enhance our understanding and to increase the effect of our policies.

I am pleased to now be part of this effort.

Thank you.