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Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

VIENNA – Although the European Union is in the midst of an economic recovery, long-term unemployment – joblessness and job-seeking that lasts at least a year – remains stubbornly high in many of the countries that were hardest hit by the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath. Unfortunately, the European Commission’s proposals for addressing the problem are in many cases insufficient.

Europe needs far more innovative labor-market policies to spur job creation and reduce long-term unemployment, which can be particularly destabilizing for society. As we have seen, unemployment has been an important factor in the rise of populist parties that are now threatening social cohesion, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe.

According to Eurostat, the statistical arm of the European Commission, ten million people across the EU’s 28 member states were suffering from long-term unemployment in 2016. Of these, around eight million are in the eurozone, and more than a quarter are 50 and over.