A two-speed Europe

Published on 5 January 2012 at 13:48


Leading with the front-page headline “Europe split in two by unemployment,” La Tribunereports on the growing gap between Southern and Northern Europe: “The rate in Germany has declined to a level not seen since 1991 while soaring to new high in Spain, where it is now almost 23%.

And Friday’s publication of European Commission estimates for the eurozone will likely confirm the extent of this disparity.” The Paris business daily continues:

This European dichotomy is first and foremost a reflection of the state of the continent’s economies. While some countries have sunk into recession (Greece, Portugal, Spain), others have succeeded in maintaining growth, albeit modest.

Citing reforms undertaken before the crisis as one of the reasons for the healthier economies in the North, The Financial Times remarks that changes to labour legislation in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany-

… have helped make the workers of these countries internationally competitive – a factor which is sorely lacking in the eurozone periphery.

The City of London daily also highlights the role played by these countries’ strong tradition of exports in sectors that “benefited from the rapid recovery of emerging economies after the 2009 crisis.” Finally, specific employment policies, like the one in operation in Germany, which encourages partial unemployment as an alternative to layoffs, have also had an impact.

However, Tageszeitung takes issue with this argument, and notes that the reforms undertaken by Berlin have not created new jobs, but simply redistributed them to a larger number of workers — a process that has resulted in the creation of a new low-pay sector. Reporting that 8.4 million Germans are “under-employed,” TAZ recalls that economic inequality in Germany has grown more rapidly than in other industrialised countries.

Finally, the newspaper notes that to celebrate the record of 41 million wage earners, the German government has spent 330,000 euros on a poster campaignDanke Deutschland – Wirtschaft. Wachstum. Wohlstand.” [“Thank you Germany – Economy. Growth. Prosperity”].

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