Unemployment in the Euro-area

The facts that this article from the Economist recounts are pretty stark:

Unemployment in the euro area reached a record high in early 2013. […] Unemployment in the 17 member states stood at 12% in February […], the highest in the euro area’s history. […]    The biggest increases were in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain. Eurostat estimates some 19.1m people are unemployed in the euro area, of which 3.6m are under 25 years old. Youth unemployment rose to 23.9% in February from 22.3% a year ago—rates in Greece and Spain are over 50%. The number of unemployed in the euro area has risen consecutively for 22 months.

So, in summary, things are bad and getting worse. No one doubts that austerity policies foment unemployment. So the questions are: was there an alternative? Given high levels of debt, and no sovereign currency, could these countries have done any different?

But the deeper question is, in the global competitive society where education, knowledge  and technology, are no longer a monopoly of the “West”, are these trends going to continue until the devaluation in salaries and absolute wealth equalizes the European middle classes with the rising counterparts of Asia, South America, and Africa? The process would be slow but steady. And it would mean an unprecedented period of low growth and decline of wages and wealth in real terms as those elsewhere slowly rise in real terms. If that happens, what will that mean for societies in the “West”?


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