Record levels of unemployment for Europe’s youth

Stefan Steinberg writes:

According to the latest figures from the German Statistical Office and Eurostat, youth unemployment across Europe has increased by a staggering 25 percent in the course of the past two and a half years. The current levels of youth unemployment are the highest in Europe since the regular collection of statistics began.

In the spring of 2008, prior to the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial crash of that year, the official unemployment rate for youth in Europe averaged 15 percent. The latest figures from the German Statistical Office reveal that this figure has now risen to over 20 percent.

In total, 20.5 percent of young people between 15 and 24 are seeking work in the 27 states of the European Union. At the same time, these numbers conceal large differences in unemployment levels for individual European nations.

In Spain, where the social-democratc government led by Jose Luis Zapatero has introduced a series of punitive austerity programmes at the behest of the banks and the IMF, youth unemployment has doubled since 2008 and now stands at 46 percent. In second place in the European rankings is Greece, the first country to be bailed out by the European Union and to install austerity measures, with a rate of 40 percent. In third place is Italy (28 percent), followed by Portugal and Ireland (27 percent) and France (23 percent).

In Britain, where youth have taken to the streets in a wave of riots and protests in a number of the country’s main cities, unemployment hovers around 20 percent. A recent report from Britain’s Office of National Statistics reported that joblessness among people between the ages of 16 and 24 has been rising steadily, from 14.0 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 20 percent in the first quarter of 2011—an enormous 40 percent spike in just three years.

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