1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

On the up side

February 5, 2010

European unemployment has hit almost 10 percent, with rising inflation, recession and the weakened euro to blame. In Germany, jobless figures are also up, but officials say the labor market is in good shape.

A job center in Frankfurt.
Job centers across Europe have been working overtimeImage: AP

Since the advent of the economic downturn, at least five million Europeans have lost their jobs. Unemployment in the 27-member EU reached 9.6 percent in December. Joblessness was especially high in Latvia, where 22.8 percent of the workforce - more than one in five people - were unemployed at the end of the year. In Spain the jobless rate reached 19.5 percent.

Stressing the importance of training and skills, the EU released a report on Thursday saying that higher-qualified workers will lead to higher levels of employment.

"Even during the recession of the last 18 months or so, when jobs were being lost throughout Europe, the number of jobs for high-skilled people [actually] increased," said Professor Mike Campbell, one of the authors of the study, in Brussels on Thursday.

Knowledge is power

A school student writes on the class blackboard.
Education and training is the answer, according to BrusselsImage: AP

Roughly 84 percent of highly skilled Europeans have a job, while more than half of low-skilled workers are out of work. The EU study also showed that companies that continued to train their staff were two-and-a-half times less likely to go out of business than those that didn't.

"We must also invest in initiatives that have stood the test of time," said Odile Quintin, the EU Commission's director-general for education, training, culture and youth, pointing to programs that encourage Europeans to attend universities in different EU countries.

"Our European learning mobility program - ERASMUS is the best known example, but there are others - will help people to develop the skills, openness and flexibility that come from exposure to other countries."

Germany in relatively good shape

German unemployment levels - which, since reunification in 1990, have been relatively high by European standards - are slightly below the EU average at the moment, but they are rising.

However, Germany's Federal Employment Agency is optimistic.

An almost empty factory.
The widespread introduction of shorter working hours is costing the government dearlyImage: Silvia Tagge

"I would say the German employment market is still robust," agency spokesman Kurt Eikemeier told Deutsche Welle.

Unemployment figures in January rose by 342,000, to a total of 3.617 million.

That increase was normal for the Christmas and New Year period, Eikemeier said, pointing out that winter weather causes people like builders, plumbers and carpenters to take a break.

Figures released on Friday show that Berlin spent 27 million euros ($37 million) on social security payments in January, almost double the previous year's figure. The extra costs were a result of the government's economic stimulus plan - in particular its pledge to subsidize some industries that have reduced working hours.

The Employment Agency's Eikemeier said the increase in social security payments was not representative of the changes in the German labor market.

"Seasonally adjusted, the January increase in unemployment was only 6,000 people. That is a very small number for a country of Germany's size, particularly during this economic downturn," he said.

Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Nancy Isenson