Brussels, 7 February 2000

Europe's Net Generation: Catching up with the US? European Commission Launches New Strategy for Jobs in the Knowledge Economy

At the initiative of Anna DIAMANTOPOULOU, the European Commission today launched an ambitious new strategy to promote employment and skills for the new knowledge economy, and to overcome the gap that has opened up with the US on access to the internet and use of information and communication technology. Net access in Europe today is not only much lower than that in the US, but it is concentrated among higher income groups, among men, and - geographically - in northern Europe.

Calling for comprehensive action across Europe, Employment Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou said:

"Our goal is to build an inclusive knowledge based economy - it is the only route to create jobs and growth in Europe in the coming years. If we can combine competitiveness and cohesion in the new knowledge economy, Europe will act as a model to the world. The next generation of the workforce - the net generation - is in school today. Our actions today in equiping this generation, and in grasping the challenges and opportunities of the knowledge society, are vital to our future economic and social development . I call on European governments - and the social partners - to take on board the recommendations put forward by the European Commission today."

The Commission paper highlights a number of opportunities and challenges presented by the knowledge economy, looks at examples of best practice in Europe today, and also looks at some of the weaknesses and risks faced by Europe.

Opportunities and challenges

By 2010, half of all jobs will be in industries that are either major producers or intensive users of information technology products and services.

Around 9 million Europeans are already tele-workers.

About 81 million out of the 117 million people aged under 25 in the European Union are in educational institutions. This is the net generation - and the next generation of the workforce, coming through already.

Employment in the information society is already becoming, on average, less stable and less certain than in the past and more dependent on high skills and adaptability

Weaknesses and risks

EU internet penetration lags behind the US: currently it stands at only one-third of the US penetration rate. European internet users also spend much less time online - less than a quarter of the rate of US users.

Exclusion risks from the information society are worryingly high: the vast majority of European internet users are concentrated in the north of Europe; high income individuals are about twice as likely to be internet users as medium income individuals, and almost three times as likely as low income ones. At the end of 1998, women made up only one quarter of internet users in Europe - compared to 50% in the US.

A risk of the next generation of workers in Europe lacking key skills compared to their international counterparts is demonstrated by international comparisons. The skills gap already exists today with unfulfilled demand for highly qualified workers limiting growth in software, services and telecommunications sectors. The shortage of IT specialists in western Europe could reach 1.6 million equivalent jobs by 2002.

Europe is lagging behind in innovation and in using modern information and communication technologies, especially SMEs.


In its report, the Commission sets out 18 specific recommendations (attached) in four main areas - learning, work, public services and enterprise - the specific target dates and monitoring. The recommendations include:


- Linking all schools to the internet by 2002.

- Ensuring all teachers are verifiably competent in information society skills.


- Ensure all workers have the opportunity to achieve the key new skill of information society literacy.

- Establish flexible frameworks for tele-working, meeting the new needs of business and employees.

- Apply user-friendly standards for equipment to improve the employability of people with disabilities.


- Establish citizen friendly internet sites with information on civil rights and public services.

- Establish public internet access points, plus on-site information society literacy training in all communities e.g. libraries, post offices etc.


- Encourage entrepreneurship through fiscal policies rewarding risk taking

- Promote the use of information society tools by SMEs in public programmes





Learning in the Information Society

Approximately 81 million out of the 117 million people aged under 25 in the European Union are in educational institutions. This is the future labour force, which depends on high skill, competence and adaptability. This 'Net-Generation', as it has been called, will live and work in a world where mobile phones, PCs, Internet etc. are ubiquitous. Today's educational system must prepare students for this reality. That implies first access to hardware and software and learning to use the technology. However, that alone is not enough. What is important, as a follow-on, is learning to learn with technology and learning to use information, to communicate and to innovate with these new possibilities. In addition, teacher training and support must be improved plus educational systems as a whole require a strategic rethink if they are to meet the challenges posed by the Information Society.





Member States

Link every school to the Internet

Increase multimedia capability of PCs in schools

End 2002

1) N of schools connected to the Internet
2) PC/pupils

Proportion of PCs with multimedia capability


Ensure all teachers are verifiably competent in Information Society skills

End 2002

N of teachers with Information Society skills


Develop capability to integrate Information Society tools in education.


Support Information Society tools and multimedia integration within curricula, through public private partnerships

Support content development networks in the educational sector

End 2002

N of teachers using Internet or multimedia in the classroom

Number and value of Public/ private partnerships


Rate of growth of content development networks



Working in the Information Society

Technological development and the globalisation of economies have permanently changed the character of both work and employment. Work in successful enterprises no longer follows the old industrial model with hierarchical chains of command, narrow divisions of tasks and a large component of unskilled labour: it requires flexible, adaptable and multi-skilled workers. Employment has become on average less stable and less certain than in the past and more dependent on high skills and adaptability. The worker and workplace in the Information Society will be very different from those we are familiar with today. In the Information Society, an increasing number of people work in jobs centring on information and knowledge and will make use of Information Society tools and services, both at work and during leisure time.





Social Partners

Provide every worker with the opportunity to achieve Information Society literacy

End 2003

N of workers with Information Society skills


Set-up framework conditions and practical arrangements to enable telework to take place on a wide scale.

End 2000

Coverage of collection of agreements on telework



Member States

Increase capacity and uptake in 3rd level education, maintaining gender balance and matching industry requirements

End 2003

1) N of 3rd Information Society course places

2) Proportion of women to men in Information Society education


Promote IT courses at 2nd level including the use of industry certified training schemes

From 2000

N of 2nd level training places

Information Society Industries

Ensure that standards for user-friendly equipment are applied to improve the employability of people with disabilities

From 2000

N of people with disabilities in paid employment



Public Services in the Information Society

The Information society will radically transform the way public administrations function. E-administration can overcome barriers of time and distance to give citizens public information and services when and where they want them and in an accessible form. This requires a determined effort by all public authorities to accelerate the use of Information Society tools in their everyday relations with citizens and business, thus increasing the efficiency and quality of their services. Priority should be given to access to public information, on-line transactions with administrations, digital procurement procedures, social and cultural services.





Member States

Set up citizen-friendly Internet Page with a clear site map providing information about civil rights and offering links to the relevant public services.

End 2000

Establishment of Central Government Citizens pages


Make electronically available all public services capable of such delivery while reinforcing the human interface with the citizen

End 2004

1) N of electronically available services

2) Number of public sector employees being trained in Information Society skills


Provide One Stop Internet Shop for Business answering questions about policies and legislation that affect business, and providing information about business news, trade shows, potential business partners, tendering opportunities etc

End 2000

1) Establishment of Internet sites

2) Proportion of calls for tenders registered on the Internet.


Set up public Internet access points supported by on-site Information Society literacy training in all communities e.g. libraries, post offices etc.

End 2001

N of access points /1000 inhabitants



The Enterprise in the Information Society

The Information Society and electronic commerce will drive economic growth and create jobs, largely determining the standard of living in Europe. New business opportunities for new companies will be enabled by giving birth to entirely new classes of business intermediaries such as aggregators, auctions or exchanges. Europe is in need of entrepreneurs willing to exploit these opportunities. The Information Society is not only opening new markets, it is also about changing the way business is done. For Europe continuous innovation facilitated by the application of Information Society tools will be of paramount importance to improve its competitiveness and to create jobs.





Member States

Encourage entrepreneurship in new services and businesses through fiscal policies rewarding risk taking, especially concerning stock options

End 2000

1) % of venture capital into high technology

2) N of start-ups


Enhance industry-research collaboration


% cofunded research


Mainstream the IS needs of SMEs in public programmes


Diffuse best practices and benchmark use of ICT by companies

From 2000


End 2002

% of funding to SMEs


% of companies using Internet-based services