Unemployment in Europe: Problems and Policies

Unemployment in Europe: Problems and Policies

Unemployment in Europe: Problems and Policies

Unemployment in Europe: Problems and Policies


Unemployment is the most serious economic and social problem in Europe today. Although the extent varies from region to region, it is generally most extreme in large cities. This volume asks why European unemployment is so high and examines the policies adopted at local, national and European level to tackle the problems. It also includes five case studies of major European cities with high levels of unemployment.


Unemployment has become the most serious economic problem of the European Union, and despite a plethora of active labour market policies to combat it, has continued to increase.

In mid 1994 the official unemployment rate of the Union as a whole was 12 per cent of the labour force, and it is predicted that by the end of the year eighteen million people could be out of work. Since 1981 the rate of unemployment has never been less than 8 per cent, and has been around 2 per cent higher than the OECD average, representing all developed industrialised economies. It has, therefore, been a persistent problem and attempts to reduce the number unemployed and create more work appear to have had only limited success.

Within Europe rates vary greatly from relatively low levels in West Germany, to very high levels in Spain and Greece. Regions within countries also experience enormous variations. Over half the population of the EU live in large cities, defined as Functional Urban Regions, of three hundred thousand people or over (Cheshire and Hay, 1989). The economic profiles of cities may be very different. Some are growing in population, others declining. Some have suffered economic structural change and decline. Others have a favourable economic structure and are thriving. It was found that they all, however, experienced unemployment rates higher than in the past, and higher than their national average.

Unemployment is, therefore, seen in some of its most severe forms in large cities. This work will examine the structure and causes of unemployment in five major European cities with very different economic profiles. Montpellier has had and continues to have a high knowledge-based service economy and has one of the fastest rates of job creation in France. Manchester is a classic case of a city, once a prosperous manufacturing economy, that has suffered from industrial decline and loss of employment, and where now the dominant employment sector is the service sector. Rotterdam similarly has suffered from manufacturing decline but also loss of employment through technological change in port activities. Barcelona, prior to the 1970s a thriving industrial and port city, experienced loss of employment and has rapidly adapted to a . . .

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