Saving Europe’s Lost Generation of Workers

The many post-mortems of the economic crisis that are now being written are misleading and dangerous, not only because the labor market has not yet recovered, but also because they contribute to complacency, thereby reducing pressure for reform. The crisis will be truly over only when new cohorts of workers are able to enter the labor market quickly and through the main door.

MILAN – More and more European young people are beginning to think just like Paul Nizan’s character Antoine Bloyé, who said, “When I was twenty, I would not call that the best time in my life.” The global financial crisis has hit them hard. The slow recovery from the recession may be even worse. Young people who entered the labor market through the backdoor of temporary contracts are now the first to be forced out as their contracts expire.

For more than a decade, temporary employment has been the engine of job creation in Europe. Now, unsurprisingly, these temporary workers form the major pool where jobs are being destroyed.

Since the beginning of the recession, in the third quarter of 2008, the European Union has lost five million jobs among those under 40 years old. Almost 90 per cent of total job losses have been concentrated in this age bracket. Those who are now leaving school and entering the job market run the risk of becoming a lost generation, like their Japanese cohorts who began their working lives at the beginning of Japan’s downturn in the 1990’s.

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