IRISH workers will have to work harder and longer if we want to ensure a high standard of living in the years ahead, a top EU official warned yesterday.
Antonis Kastrissianakis, European Commission Employment Director, stressed "the challenges were daunting and the objectives set by the EU very high".
Economic growth in new member states would be driven by productivity gains, in other words they will have to fight for any improvements they get, he said. At a RecruitIreland.com and RDJ Breakfast Forum, Mr Kastrissianakis, director of Employment Strategy with the European Commission, said unemployment in the new EU member states would remain high and largely structural following EU enlargement.
Labour productivity in the new member states is just half the level in existing EU states, he said.
Putting that right will require more than simple job creation, he said.
"We need to produce better and more productive jobs. There are too many working poor in some member states and we need to reverse the decline in productivity growth," he said.
The forum was jointly hosted by leading recruitment website RecruitIreland.com and solicitors Ronan Daly Jermyn (RDJ).
Entitled "The Irish and EU Labour Market What changes to expect after May 1st 2004?", the forum was attended by almost 200 human resource and recruitment professionals.
Mr Kastrissianakis has responsibility for developing employment policies and promoting the creation of more and better jobs in the union as a whole.
Speaking after the conference the EU official said the years ahead will be challenging.
Not only is the Lisbon objective to make the EU the most competitive in the world by 2010 a daunting challenge but the aging of the population will create a totally new set of demographic considerations, he said.
People will have to work longer while the social and economic implications of less people working demand a whole new set of responses, he said.