Europe's 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth sets a target of 75% of 20-64 year olds in employment by 2020. If the target is to be met, employment in the EU will have to increase by 17.6 million additional jobs from its current level. However, during the crisis, the employment rate has fallen to 68.9% (3Q2011), with EU unemployment remaining persistently above 9.5% since early 2010 and climbing to 10,2% mark in February 2012. Although employment gains of 1.5 million were recorded by mid-2011, these have done little to offset the 6 million job losses incurred in the EU since 2008. The deceleration of growth since mid-2011, with a less favourable outlook for 2012 and widening divergences between Member States and regions, have only increased the challenge in terms of employment, social inclusion and combating poverty. 
Besides a recession expected in some countries and a protracted sovereign-debt crisis, economic activities in Europe are being reshaped by longer-term structural transformations affecting Europe's relative competitiveness in the global economy, such as the need for a changeover to a green, low carbon and resource-efficient economy, demographic ageing coupled with complex population flows, and rapid technological changes combined with the rise of large emerging economies. These structural changes affect and will continue to affect labour markets in various ways, particularly when it comes to creating and maintaining jobs. Dynamic and inclusive labour markets, where people possess the right skills, are essential if the competitiveness of the European economy is to rise, rather than decline, on the back of these developments.
Article 3 of the Treaty establishes full employment and social cohesion as EU objectives. These objectives remain the core concerns of EU citizens and are at the heart of Europe 2020. Prospects for employment growth depend to a large extent on the EU’s capacity to generate economic growth through appropriate macroeconomic, industrial and innovation policies. At the same time, strengthening job-rich growth undeniably calls for employment policies that generate favourable conditions for job creation, facilitate positive transitions, increase the labour supply and improve its geographic and skills matching with labour market needs. Besides contributing to a recovery in the short-term, employment policies also form part of essential social investments that prevent a build-up of larger social and fiscal costs over the longer term. The EU's 2012 Annual Growth Survey calls for resolute action to step up job creation and ensure a job-intensive recovery, and this message was forcefully echoed by Heads of State and Government at the 2012 Spring European Council..