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EU “missing older workers target” - Solbes

BELGIUM – The European Commission says the European Union is a long way from achieving its target of 50% employment among 55-64 year-olds.

Economic and monetary affairs commissioner Pedro Solbes said policy makers need to make it economically advantageous for older people to work. He said the employment rate for those in the 55-64 age bracket was around 39% in 2001, up from 36% in the mid-1990s.

“However, it remains a long way from the Lisbon target of a 50% employment rate by 2010,” Solbes told the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

The so-called Lisbon agenda is a set of proposals to make the European Union “the most dynamic, competitive and knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010”.

Solbes acknowledged that the bloc is a long way from achieving what he termed its “ambitious” Lisbon goals. He said that the gross domestic product per head was just 715 of US levels, up from 70% in 1999.

“The small size of this gain illustrates that the speed and breadth of progress on the Lisbon strategy is still insufficient to achieve the ambitious goals set for 2010.”

And he said that the short-term prospects for the euro-area “are not very favourable”.

Solbes’ comments come as the British Venture Capital Association has slammed the progress made on the Lisbon agenda. The BVCA’s chairman, Michael Queen, says, “three years in, I think we are going backwards”. He said the UK “cannot wait for the slowest ships in the convoy to catch up – the UK must set its stall out as the place to do business in Europe”.

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