Dimitris Rapidis

French daily Le Monde issued yesterday the chart of unemployment in the European Union. The facts are extremely disappointing for the entity of the Union, but especially for the peripheries. South Europe scores the highest rates followed by Ireland, two of the three Baltic states (i.e. Latvia and Lithuania), Bulgaria, Hungary, and France. The aggregate combination of first- and second-paced economies in the same basket is something new in the European Union, as we were used to observe such high or increasing rates of unemployment in lower-developed economies of the Union. But now the phenomenon is widespread and the therapy even harder to find.

Unemployment -and poverty- can be commonly regarded as the most striking side-effects of austerity and lack of growth in the European Union. In every relevant sub-sector of the analysis, youth unemployment gets even higher with the member-states and the European Commission being unable of addressing this issue. In other words, the European Union seems to be the working place where new jobs lack and older working groups dominate, therefore restricting youth from prosperity and development. In some cases, as for instance in Bulgaria, illiteracy and shortage of training combined with unemployment create and even disruptive development for any prospects of economic growth and increase the volatility of the youth towards supporting political laicism and extremism. Older studies have focused on this correlation, stressing out that the rise of racist and extreme-right parties is strongly associated with youth unrest and the misinterpretation that lack of jobs is linked with growing migrant flows occupying job positions with inhuman wages, jobs that were supposed to be destined to local workforce.

The lack of jobs, the populist rhetoric, and the shadows of the future end up with two parallel outcomes: the first is that the young generation is deprived from establishing and maintaining a standard of living, and thew second is that grey economic flourishes. The first is associated with either the negation of politics and the abstention from everything considered as “political” or “participatory” (i.e. elections, political debates, union strikes), whereas the second is associated with the boost of grey economy that thrives amongst young people -also including other groups- with no social insurance and security, and definitely with no prospect of being professionally established.

Following this observation, the European Union tends to be a place where dumping is progressively established. What we use to know about a prosperous market, about a Union that everyone has the right to work wherever he /she wants, is no more the case. If conditions keep going like that, the European Union will start getting equated with markets of the Third World and brain drain will continue growing towards other markets that at least provide the essentials.

In this framework, there is a group of economies that still preserve their working quality and quantity. Germany, Austria, and Benelux (i.e. with Belgium seemingly being the “pain in the ass”) still keeping lower rates of unemployment in the midst of this major shift (or deadlock). Alongside, Switzerland remains the traditional provider of stability in the working market with only 3,4% of unemployment rate. Nonetheless, as the crisis gets deeper, Switzerland wants to preserves this status and the Confederation decided to restrict the possibility for Eurozone citizens to access its market for the following 12 months, as there are growing fears that unemployed people may enormously seek job opportunities that the local market could not absorb. In other words, Switzerland is blocking migration flows towards its territory as long as unemployment disaster remains in Eurozone.

While this decision can be considered as controversial, I firmly believe that it gives a clear sign that Switzerland fights for keeping its market prosperous protecting it from being swept from the flow of excessive manpower as if this decision were not to be decided, Switzerland could long-term end up in the same situation of uncontrolled unemployment. In the same context, this decision transfers the burden of solution to this problem to the European Union and its member-states, decreasing any alibi occured by the side of the European Union. In addition to that, the temporary character of this decision (i.e. 12 months) shows that Switzerland wants to assist Europe in finding a viable solution against unemployment, but in its own terms.

To conclude with, I definitely consider that the European Commission, the European Union, the European Parliament, and the member-states should seriously ponder upon unemployment and address the issue efficiently. I also consider this issue as of paramount importance for the fate of the European Union as a whole and one of the most striking ones towards the European Elections of 2014. Is there any party of the European Parliament that will focus on this issue? And if yes, which are the measures and decisions that should be taken to give to the next generations of Europeans that right to believe in Europe?

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