An EU-wide poll has found that citizens from the Baltic countries are the most pessimistic about the ongoing jobs crisis, while 50% of all Europeans expect greater EU involvement in the area of employment and social affairs.
The Eurobarometer poll published last Friday (24 July) clearly reflects the “sombre mood of Europeans on the topic of employment and social policy,” according to an accompanying analysis, which says citizens’ expectations of the EU in battling the recession are “profound and likely to increase in the (near) future”.
Particularly sombre is the outlook of the Baltic nations Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, whose citizens believe above all other EU member states (an average of 77%) that the worst of the economic crisis has yet to unfold.
Speaking to EURACTIV, the European Commission’s spokesperson for employment and social affairs Katharina Von Schnurbein explained that the Baltic pessimism had emerged as the “crisis evolved very quickly” in these countries.
“Their labour markets have been affected more than others in the EU,” she said.
A majority of EU citizens (60%) share this view, though a notable minority of Scandinavian countries believe the worst is over.
What’s in a name?
The poll also assessed people’s awareness of the instruments and bodies established by the EU to tackle the recession, with what appears to be less than glowing results.
For example, the revamped European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF), both of which are seen by EU leaders as key to tackling unemployment, are known to just one third of Europeans.
Von Schnurbein argues that this is a misleading statistic, as the ESF’s programmes may have impacted positively on countless citizens who remain unaware of the instrument’s exact title.
“You have to consider the bigger picture,” she says, adding that “the issue is this: do people know the name ‘ESF’? Very often training programmes that are funded or co-financed through the ESF are not branded with its name”.
In the Commission’s opinion, according to its spokesperson, “what’s more important is that you compare it [awareness of the ESF] to how many people actually think they can get help from the EU in terms of finding a job or the impact on their further education and retraining. Here you see the figures are as high as 78% that believe the EU has a positive impact in these areas”.
Nevertheless, according to the Eurobarometer analysis, “once the ESF’s purpose is explained, a third feel the ESF’s budget allocation is too little”.
However, Von Schnurbein believes the Commission’s 100% funding for ESF projects over the next two years will “allow member states like the Baltics – where budgets are already tight and where it would be difficult to achieve co-financing – to benefit from ESF funding and continue to offer training and other services to workers”.