Lifting all work restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians on 1 January 2014 has caused fears that citizens of these countries might move to the UK to claim benefits, with David Cameron calling for limits to the freedom of movement.
Britons themselves make widespread use of their right to live and work in EU countries: Spain’s Costa del Sol and the Balearics attract the biggest number of UK expatriates (400,000), followed by 150,000 living in France and 100,000 in Germany.
In the UK: Germans and French outnumbered by Poles
On the other hand, roughly the same number of German and French citizens leave their home countries to settle in the United Kingdom in company of more than 100,000 Italians and Portuguese.
However, those four nations’ emigrants combined are outnumbered by more than half a million Poles living in the UK.
The most recent ONS figures also show that in 2011, three years before the freedom of movement was extended, just below 50,000 Bulgarians and 80,000 Romanians were granted permission from the government to legally live in the UK.
A far greater number of citizens from these two countries moved to other European countries, with around one million Romanians choosing Italy and more than 800,000 emigrating to Spain.
Bulgarians’ most popular destinations were Spain, Germany and Greece – countries that had lifted restrictions on the freedom of movement, which has come under critic from David Cameron, earlier than the UK.
Young citizens from across the European Union have put forward recommendations to tackle the record youth unemployment. Key proposals include control over a part of the youth unemployment budget, a minimum wage for internships and better recognition of volunteering.
Some 60 young people from different member states came together in Brussels for the Citizens’ Agora 2013, an event hosted by the European Parliament, and decided on several measures (PDF version) to battle youth unemployment.
Although I doubt that a meeting organised by EU authorities can really help Europe’s youth to find a common voice, some of the proposals are definitely interesting:
a minimum pay for internships
professional guidance and a mentor free of charge
mutual recognition of qualifications across all member states (including skills from volunteering)
a European-wide, free of charge, language learning system
a EU platform providing information about career and training opportunities
The heads of the member states will have to prove if they take the young generation’s proposals serious at the conference on youth unemployment in Paris on 12 November.
In any case, a meeting like this can only be a first step in a discussion about European youth unemployment. I consider it essential that young people are allowed to take part in these discussions because they should have a right to decide on their future. However, young people have yet to prove that they can play a constructive role in policy-making and not only demonstrate on the streets.
Youth unemployment in the European Union is now at a record-high of just above 23 per cent, according to Eurostat figures. In the crisis hit countries Greece and Spain over half of the under 25s are without a job, while only Germany and Austria have youth unemployment rates under 10 per cent.
Video about the Citizens’ Agora (by the European Parliament):
Ricardo Rosas, 22, employed, from Spain: “I think that the EU should push member states to put in place concrete measures for young people who have just finished university and lack work experience.”
Jan Verlaak, 24, employed, from Belgium: “An entrepreneurial mind-set around Europe should be created and the mentalities changed: it’s not only about strict measures.”
Junior Sikabwe, 23 from Denmark, doing an unpaid traineeship: “I don’t think the EU can do something very concrete, but it could set a framework of how to fight youth unemployment. Problems are different in each country. There is no unique solution.”
Guillaume Vimont, a 31-year-old job seeker from France: “The EU must fight against tax evasion and fraud. It represents a lot of money today that could be used for other things.”
Tania Del Sarto, 27, employed from Italy: “The problem is that education is far from the demands of the labour market. We need to change that. Schools in Italy do not reflect real life and real jobs.”
Maria Djurhuus Petersen, 27, employed, from Denmark: “The internships are both a solution and a problem. The EU should try to push countries to provide more useful internships and transform them into real jobs.”
What should the European Union in your opinion do to fight youth unemployment?
The unemployment rate in the European Union will stay around 12 per cent until 2015, although the EU has reached an economic “turning point”, according to commissioner Olli Rehn.
In fact, the European Commission’s economic forecast, which was presented today, supports Rehn’s statement, predicting the eurozone’s GDP to grow by 1.1 per cent in 2014 and 1.7 per cent in 2015.
Europe’s jobless, however, will have to wait until the strengthening economy will affect them: The unemployment rate, currently just above 12 per cent, will drop slightly to 11.8 per cent by 2015.
“We are seeing clear signs of an economic turnaround but growth will pick up only gradually and will translate into jobs only with lag and that’s why we cannot yet declare victory and we must not fall into the trap of complacency”, Rehn said at the presentation of the newest forecast.
While Rehn focussed on the positive aspects of the economic recovery, experts are less convinced of the progress made. ING chief economist Carsten Brzeski told EUobserver that the commission forecasts “reflect the sad truth about the European recovery. It is a very slow, fragile and anaemic recovery.”
The unemployment gap between economically weak and strong regions in the European Union increased during the financial crisis, Eurostat figures show.
The statistical office of the European Union published its Regional Yearbook 2013 (PDF version) today. The yearbook shows the development of figures related to economy, population, health, labour markets, education and a few more in 272 regions within the 27 European member states from 2008 and 2011.
Regions in south-European countries like Italy and Spain particularly suffered from drifting unemployment rates. In contrast, central and north-European countries showed a more homogenous development of employment figures.
Eurostat measures the dispersion of regional employment with a percentage – the smaller the value, the smaller the difference of different regions’ unemployment rates.
By 2007, this dispersion rate had fallen to a record low of 11.1%. During the financial crisis, however, it began rising steadily and reached 12.5% in 2011.
The rise was not distributed evenly over EU member states. Only half of the states for which data was available – the dispersion rates cannot be measured in some of the European Union’s smaller states – show increasing percentages, among them Italy, Spain, Romania and Bulgaria.
Contrary to this, many central and north-European member states saw narrowing differences across their regions.
The European Union seeks to reduce gaps between unemployment rates in different EU regions. However, narrowing unemployment gaps do not necessarily mean that weaker regions catch up. It can also occur when stronger regions fall back on economic growth.