Thursday

28th Jan 2021

EU unemployment hits record high

  • Unemployed people in Spain: 23 million people across Europe do not have a job (Photo: xOchoa)

The number of unemployed people in Europe is reaching record highs as the economic crisis unfolds into one with significant social consequences.

In eight member states alone, over 30 percent of young people under 25 are out of jobs. The worst affected continues to be Spain where half its young are jobless.

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Images of long queues outside unemployment offices paint a bleak picture in the Spanish state where almost a quarter of all its citizens are unemployed.

Only Austria, Luxembourg and the Netherlands can boast an overall unemployment rate under 5 percent.

The high figures - which analysts suggest are being compounded by the EU's focus on austerity measures to drive down government debt - have pushed the issue to the top of the political agenda.

EU leaders ahead of a summit on Monday (30 January) to discuss a fiscal discipline treaty changed the focus to growth and jobs - eventually agreeing a series of steps to tackle the issue.

Some believe the leaders' urgent declarations are three years too late, however - in 2009, overall youth unemployment in the Union was already more or less the same.

"Young people, in times of crisis and economic austerity, do not need nice words but strong investments. Young people must be a political and financial priority for Europe," the president of the Brussels-based European Youth Forum, Peter Matjasic said. He added that: "Austerity measures alone are not the answer to tackle the difficulties many young Europeans are facing in accessing the labour market."

The commission has noted that almost half of all job-finders in 2010 were aged between 18 to 29 years old. But most of those found work in part-time jobs with low wages.

Member states agreed to try and cut youth unemployment rates by sending in EU troubleshooters to the worst affected countries. The teams will determine how to best use €22 billion of not-yet allocated European social funds.

For his part, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has said the aim is to "ensure that all young people are either in a job, in training or in education within four months of leaving school."

The numbers

The unemployment rate in the eurozone is the highest recorded since the euro was launched in 1999. Some 16.3 million people are unemployed across the 17 single-currency-using countries - the equivalent of almost the entire population of the Netherlands.

The unemployment rate in the EU 27 was 9.9 percent in December, with 23.8 million people out of work. November's figure increased from 9.8 percent to 9.9 percent. Spain, Greece and Lithuania recorded the highest rates.

All three countries have imposed public sector layoffs and spending cuts. At the same time, Germany's overall unemployment rate dropped to record lows of 5.5 percent.

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Eurozone unemployment reached 10.8 percent in February, the highest level since the currency was introduced in 1999. Youngsters remain the most affected, with every second Spaniard under 25 unable to find a job.

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