• Skopje - lots of building projects in the pipeline but a high unemployment rate (Photo: Dnevnik/Macedonia)

Macedonia - European champion of unemployment

23.08.10 @ 10:06

  1. By Detlef Fechtner

BRUSSELS - In Macedonia, the unemployment rate is not just a little higher than elsewhere in Europe. Even compared to other European countries hard hit by joblessness, Macedonia is in a class of its own. Last year, 32.3 percent of the total labour force were without employment, according to the EU's statistics office Eurostat.

The situation is even more desperate among young people: More than 50 per cent are looking for work, without success.

In the EU, there are two countries with an alarmingly high rate of unemployment: Spain and Latvia. In both countries, around one fifth of the workforce is waiting for a job. And it is no coincidence that Spain and Latvia are among those European countries where the recent financial and economic crisis had its biggest impact. Latvia needed outside support to overcome liquidity bottlenecks. Spain came under pressure as speculative traders turned against it because of the high debt of private households.

In contrast, the financial crisis did not strike Macedonia overly hard. One reason was the "practically non-existing exposure to toxic assets," says the EU commission.

But on the other hand, experts are not optimistic that Macedonia now can use the recovery to reduce unemployment significantly. The jobs that Macedonia created in the recent past do not reflect economic dynamism but rather an increase in public spending and special administrative effects by stricter rules.

Therefore, the EU commission expects job creation in Macedonia to remain flat this year and the next. Eurostat figures for the first quarter of 2010 even show a deteriorating picture. The unemployment rate climbed to 33.6 percent, well above the comparative data of 2009. It seems that Macedonia is set to remain European Champion of Unemployment for the time being.

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