22 November, 1996
EUROPEAN BUSINESS TACKLES JOBLESS PROJECTS
The British Guardian Newspaper reports that a coalition of 300 European companies have joined together to create jobs by backing socially useful employment projects.
The European Business Network for Social Cohesion (EBNSC) is leading a fight to cut the European Union's 20m jobless with a strategy of new initiatives in co-operation with the European Commission, and local and regional European Union authorities.
The EBNSC was set up a year ago with five key objectives: to encourage workers back into the labour market; to improve vocational training; to create new jobs outside as well as inside the market economy; to avert redundancies; and, to help the most vulnerable groups in the community. The companies in the network accept they have social responsibilities to the wider community as well as their own businesses.
Denmark, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have pioneered the EBNSC scheme, which has spread throughout Europe. Examples --
In DENMARK companies are working with the government in projects where the unemployed can bring their social security benefits into socially useful employment.
In the NETHERLANDS, Philips has helped 7,000 unemployed people retrain.
In BRITAIN, Kellogg's, which set up its headquarters in the depressed Trafford district of Manchester, has made its executives available to work with local bodies to regenerate the area. The insurance company, Sedgwick, is running schemes to prepare prisoners due for release for employment, and British Telecom finances the training of unemployed people in the latest electronic technologies.
An in FRANCE, Marks & Spencer is involved in urban renewal projects.
Although still on a modest scale, the work of the network mirrors a call by European voluntary and third sector organisations for more resources to generate socially useful employment. The Association for Innovative Co-operation in Europe, which represents voluntary and non-profit organisations in the EU, believes such projects could make a massive contribution to reducing unemployment.
Liam Doyle of AICE says: "We should look to a post-market era, where new approaches to providing income and generating purchasing power will need to be implemented. There is a need for social-capital partnerships to serve the community."
The EU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Padraig Flynn, agrees there is huge potential for job creation in this area: "It is good we have 300 companies involved. We really need 30,000 to make the kind of impact we all want. Corporate profitability is very high and more companies recognise they have a responsibility and a role to play which goes beyond questions of competitiveness in the market place."
European Trade unions agree. Peter Coldrick, of the European Trade Union Confederation in Brussels says: "We believe meeting unfilled human needs must be a very important part of a wider strategy to deal with the scourge of mass unemployment. It means thinking through the changes it will involve for the use of EU and national public spending and insuring that the jobs we create are decent jobs, and not a backdoor road to a deregulated labour market ..."
According to John Palmer of the Guardian, some companies remain sceptical and insist that jobs can only come from increased competitiveness. They fear that voluntary support for socially useful employment projects may turn into a new form of tax on business.
Palmer: " But, with unemployment at levels which impede recovery and might even threaten monetary union, business leaders increasingly recognise the old answers are not enough ..."
Source -- Guardian Newspaper 26 October 1996 "Community Shares" by John Palmer, Page 22 ... as networked from the Futurework List Internet Conference.
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