Unemployment skyrockets throughout Europe

Unemployment has reached a 10-year high in Europe.

Published on WSWS, by Robert Stevens, 8 July 2009.

The official jobless rate in the 16-nation euro currency zone rose to 9.5 percent in May, from April’s 9.3 percent. The European Union (EU) statistics office Eurostat revealed that 273,000 people lost their jobs in May. The Eurostat figures are based on the EU Labour Force Survey and recorded the eurozone unemployment total in May at 15.13 million people …

… … While feigning concern at the miserable pay being proposed under the scheme, Brendan Barber, the Trades Union Congress general secretary, made clear that the unions’ opposition to the proposal was rooted first and foremost in the needs of business. He said, “This inflexible and underfunded scheme is not fit for purpose. It would deny businesses the support they need to vary hours and working patterns during a recession, while leaving workers on poverty wages.”   

Rapidly escalating unemployment will have a vast impact on the wages and conditions of all workers. In a period of relatively high employment, the use of the unemployed as a “reserve army of labour,” as described by Karl Marx, to drive down wages and conditions is constrained by their relatively small numbers, the social benefits provided to the unemployed and labour market regulation on wage rates, etc.

Today, under conditions of a global recession without parallel since the 1930s, workers are being thrown out of their jobs by the millions. The threat of mass unemployment, alongside attacks on the social “safety net” of the welfare state, is being utilised by global capital to impose unprecedented attacks on the jobs, wages and conditions.

More astute bourgeois commentators are acutely aware of the social consequences of such an assault. Writing in the July 4 Daily Telegraph (“The unemployment time-bomb is quietly ticking”), Ambrose Evans-Pritchard commented, “One dog has yet to bark in this long winding crisis. Beyond riots in Athens and a Baltic bust-up, we have not seen evidence of bitter political protest as the slump eats away at the legitimacy of governing elites in North America, Europe, and Japan. It may just be a matter of time.” (full text).

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