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Risk of social unrest rises in EU

Deutsche Welle

With unemployement at unprecedented levels in the EU, the risk of social unrest is rising, says the UN’s International Labour Organization. The ILO is warning politicians to abandon austerity and embrace job creation. “When unemployment is as high as it is right now – as poverty and welfare protection become worse – then the danger of social unrest grows along with it,” says Miguel Angel Malo.

Malo is a professor of economics in Salamanca, Spain – a country where youth unemployment is at 56 percent. Additionally he’s an economics expert at the International Labour Organization (ILO), a UN agency seeking to promote labor rights. It was for the ILO that Malo co-authored a paper with an unsettling thesis: the likelihood of social unrest is increasing. Or at least, it’s becoming far more likely in certain areas of Europe. As a Spaniard, Malo has a personal stake in avoiding unrest in his home country and helping it recover

More unemployment

According to the report, 26.3 million Europeans are unemployed – 10 million more than just before the outbreak of the crisis in 2008. For 22 of the EU’s 27 countries, the labor market is in worse condition than before the crisis began. Just five countries have higher levels of employment than in 2008: Austria, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg and Malta.

EU unemployment now stands at 10.9 percent, write Malo and his colleagues, which is 4.1 percent more than just five years ago. In the 17 countries that have adopted the euro as their currency, unemployment has risen faster than outside it, reaching a historic high of 12 percent in February 2013.

With little happening in the job market, unemployed EU citizens are now competing for fewer and fewer positions.

Idle hands

The conclusions the report draws are even more interesting than the bare statistics: if one looks at who the losers are, it becomes clearer exactly why the ILO is warning of unrest. The losers are made of three groups which have scarcely any access to the labor market.

The first group is young people: one in four youths – a group that includes those who have finished higher education but have not found work – is currently unemployed. In Spain and Greece it’s more than half. In 26 of 27 countries, youth unemployment has risen since the beginning of the crisis. Germany is the only exception.

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