Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

EU must make the most of Information Society potential

The European Union has to make the most out of the job opportunities that the Information Society (IS) is currently creating, as failure to do so would carry a heavy price in terms of European jobs, growth and competitiveness.

This is the conclusion of a European Commission r...
The European Union has to make the most out of the job opportunities that the Information Society (IS) is currently creating, as failure to do so would carry a heavy price in terms of European jobs, growth and competitiveness.

This is the conclusion of a European Commission report to the Council of Ministers, entitled "Job opportunities in the Information Society", which identifies three main action areas and gives recommendations to Member States.

One of the main challenges of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) for research, Technological Development and Demonstration (RTD) is to tackle the unemployment rate in Europe, which is currently 11%.

During the "Jobs Summit" in Luxembourg in November 1997, the Heads of State and Government requested a report on the job opportunities within the IS. The report, adopted by the Commission, concludes that employment prospects in the IS sector are bright - but only if Europe acts decisively to make the most of the potential of this rapidly growing and rapidly changing industry.

The Commission believes this will require increased efforts to promote an enterprise culture in the European Union, the development of a flexible but robust policy framework and increased investment in the employability and adaptability of people to make it all happen.

The report therefore calls for concerted action at all levels to address this challenge and proposes a timetable for monitoring and benchmarking the progress being made.

The IS has rapidly become on of the biggest and fastest growing sectors in the EU economy, already accounting for 5% of EU GDP. Companies adopting an IS approach are creating new jobs, new opportunities, new products and new services, as well as driving overall economic growth and enhancing competitiveness.

According to the report, the IS-related sector leads employment growth in Europe with over four million people employed. Between 1995 and 1997, more than 300,000 new IS-related jobs were created.

But in spite of these positive aspects, the report points out some worrying evidence that the EU is not making the most of the IS's potential. Over 500,000 information and communications technology jobs vacancies in the EU were unfilled by late 1998 because of a skills shortage.

"This calls for urgent attention," says the Commission.

The report suggests that action is required in the following three areas:

- The EU must do more to develop an enterprise culture so as to create an environment in which new ideas, new start-ups, new products and new services can be allowed to flourish;
- Organisational change and adaptability are vital if the full potential of new technologies is to be exploited to improve efficiency, develop new products and services, and unleash the creativity and innovation of the workforce;
- Skills and technical literacy levels need to be boosted if the full employment potential of the IS is to be maximized.

The Commission's main recommendations to the EU Member States, the IS industries and the Social Partners are:

- Member States should submit their comprehensive national IS strategies by June 1999;
- Top priority should be given to ensuring the swift implementation of EU initiatives directly related to IS. In particular, in the areas of telecommunications, audio-visual, electronic commerce, venture capital, research and development, employment, education and training, cohesion and international affairs;
- The IS industries must show leadership;
- The social partners are invited to make their contribution by developing a framework for modernisation designed to promote the introduction of new technology and new work organisation in the knowledge-based economy.

The Commission will place all of these contributions on the Europa server for public consultation. A report on the progress made with recommendations for future action will be prepared for the Helsinki European Council in December 1999.
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top