Niall Ferguson and Pierpaolo Barbieri: The E.U.’s Feeble War on Unemployment

tags: NYT, Harvard, Economy, Niall Ferguson, Pierpaolo Barbieri, Ernest May, E.U.



Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard and author of “Civilization: The West and the Rest.” Pierpaolo Barbieri is Ernest May Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. His book, “Hitler’s Shadow Empire: The Nazis and the Spanish Civil War” will be published this fall.

EUROPEAN leaders have declared war on youth unemployment. At a meeting we attended in Paris last week organized by the Berggruen Institute on Governance, President François Hollande of France called on his fellow E.U. leaders to “act urgently” to address the problem. Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, warned of an impending “catastrophe” that risks losing “the battle for European unity.” Italy’s labor minister, Enrico Giovannini, added, “We have to rescue an entire generation of young people.” Only a few days ago, his boss, the newish Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, declared he wanted to make the European summit that begins on June 28 about “the fight” against youth unemployment.

The crisis is real. According to a recent report by the International Labor Organization, the youth unemployment rate in France is now above 23 percent. In Italy it is 34 percent. Conditions in Greece, Portugal and Spain are even worse. Moreover, alarmingly high proportions of unemployed young people have been out of work for more than six months.

True, the official Eurostat figures overstate the problem by excluding students from the work force. Still, even the more realistic figures for “NEETs” (young people not in employment, education or training) are pretty grim. In Italy and Greece, more than a fifth of the working age population are in that category....



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