Commission: Soaring unemployment is ‘a tragedy for Europe’

Unemployment insurance office in Spain. [Flickr]

Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner László Andor called new unemployment rates released by Eurostat yesterday (2 April) “unacceptable” and “a tragedy for Europe”. The eurozone has hit the 12% mark for job-seekers, compared to 7.7% in the USA.


The EU’s statistical office Eurostat published new data, showing that for the first time unemployment in the eurozone has hit 12% in February 2013, up from 10.9% a year ago. For the EU 27, the rate is 10.9%, slightly higher than the 10.2% in February 2012. 

In total, the number of job-seekers in February jumped to 19,071 million, almost two million more that the previous year. For the EU 27, the total number of unemployed stood at 26,338 million, more that two million more that in 2012

The unemployment rate in the USA was 7.7% in February 2013. In Japan it was 4.2% in January 2013.

The statistics do not contain data for Greece. The country with the highest level of unemployment appearing in the chart is Spain with 26.3%, up from 23.9% in 2012. Second worse is Portugal with 17.5%, up from 14.8% the previous year. Next is Ireland with 14.2%, marking an improvement compared to the previous year at 15.1%, and Cyprus at 14%, a dramatic increase from 10.2% the previous year.

The lowest unemployment rates are recorded in Austria (4.8%), Germany (5.4%), Luxembourg (5.5%).

“Such unacceptably high levels of unemployment are a tragedy for Europe and a signal of how serious a crisis some eurozone countries are now in. The EU and its member states have to mobilize all available instruments to create jobs and return to sustainable growth,” said Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner László Andor, as quoted by spokesperson Chantal Hugues.

“Young people need more support to acquire the right skills to increase their chances of getting a job and finding vacancies that exist. This is why the Youth guarantee, agreed by EU ministers on 28 of February, must be put in place urgently,” Hugues added.

According to the February data relesaed,  5,694 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU27, of whom 3,581 million were in the euro area. Compared with February 2012, youth unemployment rose by 196.000 in the EU27 and by 188.000 in the euro area.

The highest rates of youth unemployment in February 2013 were registered in Greece (58.4% in December 2012), Spain (55.7%), Portugal (38.2%) and Italy (37.8%).

Conversely, the lowest levels were observed in Germany (7.7%), Austria (8.9%) and the Netherlands (10.4%).

Chief Economist at the OECD, Pier Carlo Padoan, said at a press conference:

“The employment situation continues to deteriorate in many countries, making it all the more urgent to implement the labour and product market reforms that can stimulate growth and create jobs."

In the euro area, there is still some scope to ease monetary policy further, given weak demand and inflation well below the ECB’s objective, while further action is needed to repair the transmission mechanism,” Padoan continued.

In the Employment Package adopted in April 2012, the European Commission proposed a new approach for employment policy, advancing a jobs-centred paradigm where labour is a most precious resource and productive employment a source of growth, rather than a delayed consequence of the recovery.

At the June 2012 European Council, EU heads of state and government adopted a €120-billion 'Compact for growth and jobs'.

The Compact puts an emphasis on both tackling unemployment and addressing the social consequences of the crisis, referring to sections in the Employment Package on quality job-creation, structural reform towards dynamic labour markets, investment in human capital and improving multilateral surveillance of employment policies.

On 28 February, EU ministers agreed on the Youth Guarantee, under which member states should put in place measures to ensure that young people up to age 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

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