In April this year, the International Labor Organization (ILO) warned the EU of annihilating consequences for the labor market of the EU austerity measures. Hatred, insecurity and suicide have increased, while the economy remains in ruins.
Unemployment is on the rise globally. According to the ILO estimate, around 202 million people will be unemployed in 2012, which is an increase in 6 million from 2011. More than two thirds of European countries have experienced an increase in unemployment in the last six months. According to Eurostat, “24.772 million men and women in the EU-27, of whom 17.365 million were in the euro area (EA-17), were unemployed in March 2012.” Unemployment increased by 2.123 000 in the EU-27 and by 1.732 000 in the euro area since March 2011. The unemployment rate in the Euro area stood at 10.9 percent in March 2012, in comparison to 9.9 percent in March 2011. The lowest unemployment rates were in Austria (4.0 percent), the Netherlands (5.0 percent), Luxembourg (5.2 percent) and Germany (5.6 percent). Highest rates were in Spain (24.1 percent) and Greece (21.7 percent).
However, austerity has not helped European countries. Spain, for example, decreased its budget deficit by 0.5 percentage points from 2010 to 2011, yet unemployment has soared since then. In fact, Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the EU. Greece is an example of a failing experiment. Austerity measures have been imposed so that Greece could obtain €130 billion from the International Monetary Fund to avoid defaulting. However, Greek unemployment level is second highest in the EU. Greek middle classes have suffered enormously during the current crisis. Their incomes dropped dramatically; their jobs disappeared. As a result, suicide rates doubled to 5.6 per 100,000 persons a year, among which most are committed by men, whereas women are seen to suffer depression.
The solutions have alienated young Europeans. According to activists from Occupy Wall Street from London, the world has entered the World War III. However, unlike the previous two wars, this one is about debt and economic power. While the young, the workers, the impoverished, the women and the children suffer, corporations and banks profit. The latter are bailed out, given subsidies to keep running and the former are left to starve and take care of themselves.
The solutions have created a need for new solutions among immigrants and minorities. According to the Council of Europe, there is a rise in intolerance and violence against immigrants as welfare has been cut and taxes increased. The report states:
“Immigration is [being] equated with insecurity, [that] irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees either steal jobs or risk capsizing our welfare system, while Muslims are not able to integrate in Western societies.”
A public discussion to reintroduce borders in the Schengen area creates xenophobia among the EU citizens, who fear a flood of immigrants will rush to take their jobs and economic security away from them. German and French ministers have already requested an end to the Schengen.
Right – wing parties are flourishing. In Greece, Golden Dawn Party, known for its support of Aryanism is expected to win on May 6 elections this year. In Netherlands, the far right – wing party has been encouraging Dutch citizens to spy on Eastern Europeans who might be working on the black market and report them to the authorities. The same occurred in Belgium. Asylum seekers in Hungary are led around the town in handcuffs in some cases.
While the austerity measures are definitely benefitting some, they have increased intolerance, dissatisfaction, suicide rates and human rights violations in the European countries. It is yet to be seen how the EU will manage to preserve respect for human rights, one of the pillars of the EU for which the EU has been known. So far, austerity measures have produced little effect, as more countries are heading into recession. Perhaps it is time to pay attention to the social problems as well.