Annual jobless figures suggest sluggish improvements

02.05.14 @ 18:07

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - Figures released on Friday (2 May) by the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, indicate large differences remain in unemployment rates across member states.

  • The eurozone unemployment rate was 11.8% in March 2014, stable since December 2013, but down from 12.0% in March 2013 (Photo: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org)

With an 11.8 percent overall jobless rate in the eurozone, the chances of people landing a job remain low in countries like Greece and Spain when compared to Austria and Germany.

At 26.7 percent, austerity-hit Greece still has the worst unemployment rate in the EU, followed closely by Spain with 25.3 percent. Austria at 4.9 percent and Germany at 5.1 percent have the lowest.

The figures have more or less remained the same compared to one year ago, with only incremental improvements in Spain.

EU social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor called for more investment into job creation.

“The ultimate factor that will determine Europe's economic future is whether we can hold together and further strengthen our Economic and Monetary Union, or whether we let weaker members of the EU and of our societies drift away,” he said.

Earlier this year, Andor warned that one in four Europeans is at risk of poverty, despite unemployment figures dropping in some member states.

Young people are the worst affected by the unemployment crisis. Only around one in four people of working age under 25 have a job.

To offset the trend, the EU last summer launched its Youth Guarantee scheme with a promise to help the young find jobs, continue their education, or land a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.

EU money to support the scheme is primarily sourced from the European Social Fund (ESF).

Andor's spokesperson said the fund should continue to be worth more than €10 billion every year in the 2014-20 period.

Another €6 billion is meant to be a top-up for the ESF during the same period, he added.

But given the scale of the problem, the EU plan has been criticised for being underfunded and lacking in ambition.

The Brussels-based European Youth Forum in a study out in April on ten member states says the scheme has yet to live up to its promises.

“It is a good way of tackling youth unemployment but effectively so far there hasn’t been enough ambition in it and enough political will in some member states to implement it properly,” said a European Youth Forum spokesperson.

Friday’s Eurostat figures confirm only slight improvements when it comes to getting the young into steady work.

Youth unemployment in the eurozone in March 2013 was an even 24 percent. As of last March, it stood at 23.7 percent, according to Eurostat’s latest figures.

The EU, for its part, is set to publish spring economic forecasts for member states on Monday.

The study will look at, among other things, unemployment trends from 2013 and forecasts into 2015 throughout the Union.