Good news! The unemployment rate in the 17 eurozone economies stabilised over the summer months and has been holding steady at a near-record 12%. The situation looks almost as bad across the rest of the EU-28, with a mere 26 million people (almost 11% of the labour force) unable to find work in August. The prospect of a “jobless recovery” (with economic growth returning on paper but with jobless levels remaining stubbornly high) is looking increasingly likely. So… not really such good news, then.
One of the most pressing challenges facing Europe today is the need to create jobs and get more people working. Carolina from Portugal recently sent us in a video question asking how we can tackle unemployment (particularly youth unemployment) whilst simultaneously mending strained relations between northern and southern Europe. We interviewed a smörgåsbord of policy-makers from across the political spectrum to see what they thought.
Firstly, we spoke to Evy Christofilopoulou, a Greek MP and deputy minister with the social democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). She would like to see a significant fiscal stimulus directed at those sectors of the economy where Europe is still competitive (culture, tourism, services, etc.).
Next, we spoke to Salvador Sedó i Alabart, a Spanish MEP aligned with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament. He responded that the European Commission has already proposed some plans to tackle youth unemployment, though he admitted that Europe will still need more “structural reforms” (as well as “greater co-operation at the European level”).
Meanwhile, Ashley Fox, a British conservative MEP, believes that any economic stimulus would be an enormous waste of taxpayers’ money. He argues that the problem is too much regulation and red tape in Europe, and the best way to grow the economy is to cut back on government spending and allow private enterprise to flourish.
Finally, Oscar Wåglund Söderström, who is State Secretary at the Swedish Ministry of EU Affairs and serves under a liberal democratic minister, echoed some of Fox’s comments. He also argued that greater deregulation was a possible solution to the crisis, and said that it was up to individual member states to implement these measures independently (they should “do their own homework”) before a discussion takes place about further co-operation at the European level.