“Europe will not have economic growth, it will not be competitive, it will not achieve its strategic autonomy in the industrial sectors with greater potential if it is not also socially fairer”, declared António Costa at the opening session of the Porto Social Forum, which takes place today at the Crystal Palace.
The prime minister added that the European Union (EU) will also not be economically competitive “if it does not develop a balanced migration policy in dialogue with the countries of origin and transit”.
“Because, given the demographic winter we are experiencing, the construction of walls does nothing to contribute to the competitiveness of our economy on a global scale”, he stressed.
These findings by the chief executive were made in a speech in which António Costa addressed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), of the United States, to point out that the diploma of the Biden administration raised “concerns” at the European level.
The IRA “was naturally good news for accelerating the energy transition on a global scale, but it also raised, and raises, a fundamental question: will Europe be able to attract investments to develop and create the industrial sectors and jobs of the future?” he questioned.
Costa stressed that the EU is “building the foundations of a European industrial policy” – still incomplete, “in the absence of a true common, permanent financial instrument dedicated to the green reindustrialization of Europe” – and considered that, in this framework, the Pillar European Social Rights “takes on added importance”.
Addressing in particular the “decisive issue of qualifications”, the prime minister stressed that “the acceleration of digital and green transitions depends to a large extent on the reconversion and reinforcement of qualifications and European workers”.
“We know that there are professions that are going to disappear, that jobs are going to disappear, but we also know that this double transition opens the door to new professions. (…) What we have to guarantee is that those who lose their job have the opportunity to access a new one”, he said.
In addition to skills, Costa maintained that it is also necessary to ensure that the EU economies “are prepared to deal with the limitations of growth imposed by a challenging demography”.
“Today, in a Europe without borders and in a globalized world, companies will have to compete for talent as they compete for the value and cost of the goods they produce or the services they provide”, he said.
The attraction of these talents, according to the chief executive, involves “improving the conditions for reconciling professional and family life, stable employment relationships and fair wage conditions, including the reduction of the ‘gender gap’ (differences in pay between men and women)”.
“For example, there is much to be done to strengthen women’s participation in the labor market at the European Union level. In 2022, the employment rate of men stood at 80%, while that of women did not reach 70%”, lamented the prime minister.
In this regard, Costa noted that “Portugal has had very positive results, even above the European average, having achieved, last year, an employment rate of 74.8%, compared to an 80% participation rate of men”.
The prime minister stressed that, both in the United States and in the EU, there is currently “a shortage of workers” and referred that, “a reinforcement of investment in industrial sectors of strategic importance will lead to an increased demand for the need for human resources” .
“In other words, State aid and investment are not enough. Everything will be insufficient to accelerate the industrial transition if we do not find ways to have more attractive, more inclusive, more participatory labor markets for our citizens”, he said.
According to the Prime Minister, “this is an area in which the EU, with its social market economy and advanced social policies, could even obtain a competitive advantage over the United States”.