EU Not Working for Workers: High Employment, But Jobs Bad and Pay Low

GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images
GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images

The Financial Times has admitted that the European working class have seen few gains from the post-crash recovery, fuelling a continued sense of grievance against the political establishment ahead of the EU Parliament elections.

“The trend is clear across EU countries: workers are losing economic ground,” begins the salmon-pink newspaper, a normally studiously europhile gazette which is part of the unofficial uniform of the typical City of London worker.

“Subdued wage growth, underemployment and unstable jobs have all helped to fuel a sense of grievance among many workers that they are missing out on the proceeds of growth,” it reports, citing Stefano Scarpetta, Director for Employment, Labour, and Social Affairs at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as saying that “Many EU countries are facing the apparent paradox of record high employment rates and stagnant wages” — a situation he described as “back to work but out of pocket”.

The FT notes that in EU member-states including Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom — which remains in the European Union years after the British people voted to leave it due to Remain-voting prime minister Theresa May reneging on previous promises to deliver it by March 29th 2019, and will be participating in this months European Parliament elections as a result — real wages are “still below their pre-crisis peaks.”

“[V]oters going to the polls this month will this year take home the smallest share of their countries’ income for more than a decade,” the City newspaper concedes, reported fears that populist parties appealing to “those left behind” might prosper electorally as a result — which Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini’s League (La Lega) having been previously projected to become one of the largest parties in the European Parliament after the coming elections, for example.

The FT also notes that such jobs as do exist — and a great many have been created — are often low-quality, observing that “the number of casual, self-employed and temporary jobs has increased in many EU countries,” and that “some workers have lost access to social protection measures such as unemployment and pension benefits.”

One exception may be post-referendum Britain, which — despite the repeated delays to Brexit — has seen the number of EU migrants arriving for work fall significantly since the vote to leave the EU, and a corresponding increase in wages which has been bewailed by employers demanding continued high net immigration to keep the cost of labour low.

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