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In the Media | May 2013

Rania Antonopoulos: In Greece, 173,000 Persons among the 950,000 Registered Unemployed Are Less Than 24 years old

Interview by Kostas Kalloniatis
Eleftheritypia, May 19, 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Youth unemployment is just one part of the wider problem of unemployment and of course requires specialized interventions to tackle it, according to Rania Antonopoulou, professor at Bard College, director of the research division for gender equality of the Levy Economics Institute, and associate researcher with the Labour Institute of the GSEE.

Antonopoulos considers largely inadequate, if not hypocritical, the recent interest of the European political leadership in youth unemployment and considers the motivation to be in part fear of the risk of social explosion (recent media statements by Draghi, Barroso Leta, etc., provide support for this claim).

She informs us that in the eurozone in 2012 there were 3.4 million unemployed young people aged 15–24, but roughly four times more unemployed were between 25 and 54 years old (12.6 million), with the result that young people constitute 27 percent of this total unemployed (up to 54 years old). In Greece, respectively, young unemployed stood at 173,000 persons in 2012, as compared to 950,000 unemployed aged 25–54 years, comprising a mere 18.2 percent.

Antonopoulos underlines a crucial difference, especially for policy, between:

A. the unemployment rate: for youth it was 55.3 percent in Greece in 2012; namely, for every 100 employed and unemployed young people, 55.3 were unemployed, when for the 24–54 age working age population group this rate was 23.4 percent;

B. the ratio of unemployment to the total population of a certain age group, which includes everyone (the employed, the unemployed, and those not looking for work): for the young in Greece was only 16.2 percent in 2012 due to the fact that the vast majority are students, soldiers, etc. (i.e, a rate that is much less than the rate of unemployment) when the comparable number for ages 24–54 years was 20 percent ( much closer to their corresponding unemployment rate above); and

C. the share of the unemployed by age group among the total number of persons that are unemployed, which for the young unemployed in Greece amounted in 2012 to 14.4 percent, which means that the remaining 85.6 percent of the unemployed were 25 years of age or older.

Now, for Mr. Barroso and Co. the most important criterion is the unemployment rate. But for Ms. Antonopoulos the most important measure for guiding policy is the last measure, the share by age composition of the unemployed.

With all this, Antonopoulos does not claim that there is  no need to pay attention to youth unemployment or university graduates seeking their first job. Instead, she proposes that equal attention, perhaps more attention, needs to be directed  to those who lost their jobs and are not as young.

Therefore, she believes that the issue of unemployment in general needs to be addressed with anti-austerity pro-growth policies based on domestic demand stimulus, and that a focus in this particular period exclusively on youth unemployment based on erroneous calculations or political considerations (supposedly in response to the lost generation) is misguided. Priority should be given to the creation of an employer-of-last-resort policy—like the New Deal—capable of designing employment programs that match the capabilities of the unemployed to social needs, with the assistance of the trade unions, local communities and their elected governments, and the unemployed themselves.

For youth unemployment, she indicated that specialized interventions along the lines of current interventions in Sweden and Finland are appropriate.

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