Conference on jobs ends in Detroit

March 16, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

DETROIT -- Officials from the leading industrial democracies completed their first jobs conference yesterday, agreeing on the need to improve education, training and worker skills to combat unemployment but failing to bridge a crucial gap between the United States and Europe.

European delegations showed no sign they were willing to take the politically risky step of reducing their traditional, expensive support for social safety nets, which, in many cases, make a lifetime on government unemployment benefits more financially attractive than work on the lowest rung of the pay scale.

U.S. officials could point to few specific lessons they learned in 1 1/2 days of meetings in the heart of the Rust Belt that would shift Clinton administration policies.

Yet the officials -- from the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy -- left here on an upbeat note.

They agreed in a final statement read by Treasury Secretary Lloyd M. Bentsen that they had taken "an important first step, very frankly trading ideas, learning from one another" about what has worked, as they try to pull their nations out of the troubling unemployment that has dogged them, even as other economic conditions begin to improve.

"We agreed that there is no single solution, no one idea or action that will work for every country," Mr. Bentsen said.

From the start, officials had gone out of their way to portray the meeting as an informal discussion of the difficulty they have encountered in trying to bring down unemployment rates that have reached as high as nearly 12 percent, almost twice the rate in the United States.

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