EU Jobs and Conditions Still Sinking, Report Says

     (CN) – A quarterly report from the European Commission found that the still-deteriorating EU labor market is causing social conditions to worsen.
     Differences between member states remain significant, the commission said in a statement. About half of Europe experienced some economic growth during the first quarter of 2012, while the other half either remained stagnant or saw economic declines.
     As unemployment rose in most member states, the EU figure topped 10 percent, according to the full report. The number of women in the workforce increased during the period, but young people aged 15 to 24 experienced higher unemployment rates.
     Countries in southern and eastern Europe are still the hardest hit, the commission said. Because of high unemployment rates in this region, many – especially young people – plan to migrate.
     Germany saw the biggest influx of emigrant workers, with 22,000 more workers moving there from southern Europe in February 2012 compared to the previous year, the commission reported.
     The construction sector continued to bleed jobs, and public-sector jobs shrank as fiscal restraints kicked in, according to the commission. Employment in health and social services remained a bright spot, as an aging population contributed to rising demand for health care. National cuts to benefits, however, have led to lower spending on health and social services, the agency added.
     A sharp rise in households trying to maintain expenses by drawing on savings or going into debt is causing financial distress. This is especially for people living on low and middle incomes, according to the report. Financial distress rates have increased from 16 to 26 percent in Italy and 23 to 33 percent in Spain since April, the commission said.
     Living conditions also continued to deteriorate across the region. The shares of people unable to afford their electricity bills increased, and several countries report marked increases in the number of people unable to afford a meal with meat or equivalent proteins every other day.
     Homelessness is also on the rise across Europe as people face un- or under-employment, according to the commission.
     “This latest data show that the employment situation and living conditions are deteriorating significantly in a number of member states,” EU employment commissioner Laszlo Andor said in a statement. “This underlines the urgent need for a robust solution to the current economic and financial crisis, and more specifically for each member state to implement the [commission’s] country-specific recommendations and the measures outlined in the employment package.”
     “We have to support job-rich growth and prevent permanent exclusion of jobless people from the labor market,” added Andor, who also oversees social affairs and inclusion in the EU.

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