The Lisbon strategy of 2000 sets the ambitious goal (among others) of achieving an employment rate of 70% overall, 60% for women and 50% for older workers within the EU-15 by 2010. Five years later, labour market participation has increased somewhat (overall from 62.5% in 1999 to 64.3% in 2003), but remains disappointingly low in the EU-15 (and even lower for the EU-25).
This study considers the problems related to the flexibility (and thus efficiency) of labour markets in Europe, which leave too many outside the job market and fail to match the unemployed with job opportunities. Key questions that arise are how flexibility can be increased and how private-sector actors can contribute to improving the performance of labour markets. Thus, the study researches the development of labour market participation across the EU according to different types of occupations, along with age, gender and skill groups, giving special attention to the characteristics of the jobs held by ‘marginal groups’ at the edge of mainstream employment. It examines the issues surrounding the mismatch between unemployed persons and unfilled jobs, the different approaches of member states in responding to market fluctuations and the contribution of the private sector to re-integrating long-term unemployed persons on the basis of a case study.