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Scourge Of Unemployment

  • January 12th, 2013
  • Posted by EUEditor

eu-money-symbol-coins2.jpgCOMMENTARY: European jobless figures for the closing months of 2012 have produced a shock of realisation about the hardships and deep uncertainties of getting out of depression and financial crisis.


Greece the hardest hit country since the crisis of 2008 has become the one with the worst unemployment rate, at 26.8%, just eclipsing Spain at 26.6%.

In the other two, smaller states with the heaviest of over-commitments, joblessness in Portugal is at 15.8% and in Ireland 14.7%.

The impact of these figures is contained in the suddenness of the rise in many places; in Greece with a doubling of the rate over the last three years, and in the European Union overall, going up or remaining stubbornly at high levels in 20 of the 27 member  states, since 2011.
Compilations of figures from a range of sources including the CIA World Factbook and Eurostat in Brussels agree that joblessness in the European Union has now pushed to 11.8%, and that this figure represents nearly a 12% rise in numbers unemployed over the last year.


Whereas a Eurostat commentary prosaically notes that unemployment is connected to the business cycle and other factors like “labour market policy”, most analysis sees the drive to settle debt impeding new economic growth, as a toxic factor in the mix.

Policy makers of the European Union have managed the process of providing a collective funding back-up for governments in extreme debt, with over €160-billion (A$202-2-billion;, 12.1.13) provided to Greece up to this time, fending off collapse and contagion.

The measures they have demanded in return –effective increases in taxation and deep spending cuts extending to public service lay-offs and reductions in pensions — have put the brakes on the national economies; meaning no jobs, no money for households.


depression-jobless-nswgov.jpgThe numbers are being understood in human terms in Europe, where the fact of masses out of work has resonated through recent history, since the industrial revolution, as a generator of human misery, social breakdown and savage conflict.

Early in 2013 a film set in the lead-up to the revolutions of 1848, born of grinding poverty and the over-abundance of people cast into the streets, is receiving accolades. (Les Miserables – the eternal poor – has eight Academy Award nominations this week in the United States).


depression-shoppers.jpg  Most devastatingly, war trauma and joblessness, in the demobilisation after World War I, led in to the Great Depression, and politics of desperation, unleashing again the beast of war.

The drive by the “worker states” of the Eastern Bloc, 1945-90, to make a job for everybody, brought a qualified sense of security, which then foundered on weak ability to create wealth. Citizens would say: “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us”.


Eurostat’s reporting from last November shows the scale of the problem and intensity of the trends.

It says that it estimates 26.061 million men and women in the EU-27 were unemployed in November, with the number going up by 154 000 since October. Compared with November 2011, unemployment had risen by 2 012 000.

Among the member states, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria (4.5 %), Luxembourg (5.1 %), Germany (5.4 %), and the Netherlands (5.6 %), and the highest rates in Spain (26.6 %) and Greece (26.0 % in September 2012).

“In early 2000, just less than 20 million persons were unemployed in the EU-27, slightly below 9 % of the total labour force.”

Double-figures outcomes are the most common, in Eastern Europe and the West alike.

Among the larger countries: France 10.7%, Italy 11.1%, Poland 13.3%, and the United Kingdom 7.8%.

November 2012 unemployment rates outside of Europe: Australia 5.2%, Japan 4.1%, the United States 7.8%.

Recent reportage, see EUAustralia Online: “ECSummit: Step one to spending €1-trillion”, 24.11.12; “”Greek journalist acquitted, Greek crisis goes on”, 3.11.12; “European Summit: Austerity battle …”, 22.10.12.


BBC, London, “Greece unemployment hits highest rate in European Union”, 10.1.13., (11.1.13).

European Commission, Eurostat, Brussels, Unemployment Statistics, November 2012., (11.1.13).

The Guardian, Manchester, “Unemployment in Europe: get the figures for every country”, 31.10.12., (11.1.13).