Europe’s Middle-Age Trap

European policymakers have finally recognized the severity of their youth-marginalization problem. But, just over the horizon, there looms another social catastrophe that they have yet to acknowledge; this time, it is middle-aged workers who are poised to suffer.

CAMBRIDGE – European policymakers have finally recognized the severity of their youth-marginalization problem. But, just over the horizon, there looms another social catastrophe that they have yet to acknowledge. This time, it is middle-aged workers who are poised to suffer.

This might seem surprising, given that middle-aged workers seem to be the winners in today’s system. Workers in their late forties and early fifties enjoy stable employment, control the political system, and are less vulnerable to economic downturns than their colleagues who are closer to pension age.

Moreover, high entry barriers, seniority-related benefits, and tough restrictions on firing employees have enabled Europe’s middle-aged workers to retain even moribund jobs – a situation that has contributed substantially to youth marginalization. According to the OECD, from 2008 to 2012, unemployment among Europeans aged 45-54 increased from 5.2% to 7.7%, while youth unemployment jumped from 15% to 21.4%. At the end of 2013, approximately four million people aged 50-64 were unemployed, compared to nearly six million aged 18-24.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/ZFsYpS8;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.