European Proposals on Youth Unemployment

Capitalism’s roads are paved with "good intentions"

Figures show that in the euro area alone, youth unemployment has reached 24.1%. It ranges from 7.7% in Germany to 57.3 % in Greece, through 40.4% in Italy. In numerical terms there are officially 5.6 million unemployed between 15 and 25 years, but a broader figure to consider is the 7.5 million young people who have not finished school, who do not have a job, that are not included in any training or internship project. The data is so alarming that the bourgeois "intelligentsia" itself felt it had to do something to prevent the bubble bursting on the streets in the form of radical protest, even if it remains within the system and the form of economic demands and laws, but even so still representing a great risk to their much desired "social peace".

President Letta boasted of being the promoter of a programme, put together by European bodies that, over time, should begin to solve the problem. According to this programme, 6 billion Euros are to be allocated to the unemployed under the age of 25 years, spread over the next three years. The money will come from the European Social Fund and from an ad hoc fund of three billion euros each. Other sums, are to be made available for subsequent years but it is not clear where from, or how much, this will be. The fund only applies to the countries and regions that have youth unemployment above 25%, as if having a little less than a quarter of the population under 25 years old idle should be regarded as a "normal" social phenomenon subject to routine administration, nothing to worry about.

Apart from this aspect that already shapes the meaning and content of the manoeuvre, the stated objectives are:

1 . Within four months of completing their studies or after becoming unemployed young people will have to take on a job or a course of training and/or refresher course within the companies and subsequently inserted into the world of work or research.

2 . By means of subsidies, labour mobility both within the country or region, both in the EU countries on the basis of the EURES project will be promoted.

If we were naïve reformists we might say, "Well, it was about time. Perhaps there are not enough funds, but certainly it is long overdue since the problem was already too big. However this is a step forward, just get started and then we'll see." But this is not how things are.

Meanwhile, these “benefactors” of the young that they themselves have put on the streets for years, creating social havoc for at least a generation and their families, are very careful not to make any self-criticism. They have not even explained the devastating consequences of the economic crisis, beyond the drivel that crises unfortunately occur, and when they do, you do what you can, as if they were an Act of God, something natural, and not the necessary consequence of how social wealth is produced and distributed under capitalism.

So let’s take a closer look. They say that after four months of unemployment after leaving school or work they will have a new job or an internship that will lead to future work, with training courses or apprenticeships. But what jobs if, according to the most optimistic expectations of the same bourgeois analysts, the economic recovery will start again without expanding employment, or at least without a significant contraction of current unemployment? This is what is happening in the U.S., and in Japan, where it is said, even if feebly, that the economic recovery, although modest, is already taking place.

For international capital, Europe included, the eventual exit from the crisis will be based on greater economic concentration, in the wake of technological investments that will inevitably impede the absorption of the old workforce and the creation of new jobs. As a reward for those young people who will have the chance (luck) to get into the next economic cycle, the very few, there will only be flexible, short-term contracts, low wages and job insecurity, with the only fraudulent option, already passed by Italian Labour Law, of phantom permanent contracts that are not really such, because an accompanying clause states that these contracts might be immediately nullified if of the company that signed them has economic problems. This is the iron law of capitalism.

In addition it is to be noted that, in this situation, jobs have declined dramatically, at least 10-15 %, while the retirement age is to be extended. Jobs are not only reduced, but the old remain at work until they reach seventy while young people remain largely excluded from the production cycle, from the acquisition of an income. They survive for a long time only “thanks” to the increasingly miserable income of their parents, or the meagre pension of grandparents, in the face of a gradual dismantling of welfare, a “duty” that has to be endured for the preservation of a system in crisis.

In the future, as we already said, things are not going to greatly improve. The economic reasons that have led to unemployment are the same that make its absorption difficult even in a period of economic recovery, when, how and if it can be expressed. The only thing certain is that the whole world of work, of the youth and the elderly in particular, will have to bear the cost of the economic recovery, which is always seen in the short term, as it is due to the crisis. When the old finally retire with 40% less than today, then, and only then, the young will be partially inserted into production with wages halved compared with those of the “old”, with the renewed burden of flexibility regarding starting and finishing jobs, absolute precariousness to allow the capitalist machine to take advantage of the new work force under the conditions that best meet the resumption of profiteering and the stabilisation of the system.

So what good are the funds? The sums are there. In a small way they will certainly finance the purpose for which they were raised, but in the vast majority of cases they end up being only a means to maintain the “status quo” faced by the majority of young Europeans. It is a sort of social channel that can serve to defuse the time bomb of youth unemployment, which in turn could drag other layers of the proletariat into pauperisation.

Capitalism does not have many alternatives to overcome the crisis. In addition to the decline in value of capital assets, it requires an equally effective devaluation of the cost of the labor force in terms of direct and deferred salary reduction, it needs to increase the pace of work, lengthen the working day and the most savage job insecurity, with or without subsidies, to assist the dispossessed European proletariat in the future.

FD

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

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