June 27, 2013 10:09AM

Why Is European Unemployment So High?

The issue of unemployment is a complex one for economists.  There are many factors involved.  I'm a lawyer, not an economist, so I'm not the best person to spell out a comprehensive plan to deal with the problem.  But in the particular context of high European unemployment, I was struck by this Economist article about the Italian fashion industry, which notes that there are lots of jobs available:

With youth unemployment running at 35% in Italy and annual net pay for a young leather-cutter starting at around €18,000 ($24,000), fashion firms ought to have applicants beating down their doors. ...

... the shortage of craftspeople is so widespread that some firms have taken to poaching from competitors, much as football clubs try to lure the best players from rival teams. So those with skills can be sure of finding work and commanding good pay. ...

But Italians aren't going for these jobs, and companies have to look elsewhere:

Some firms have looked abroad for skilled sewers and knitters. Mr Scervino has brought in knitwear specialists from Bosnia and Moldova, for example. But these, again, are typically middle-aged workers who will need replacing before long. Other Italian fashion firms have caused controversy by sending some sewing work abroad, bringing the pieces back to add the final stitches before slapping a “Made in Italy” label on them.

Why aren't Italians interested?

Like people in other rich countries, Italians tend to look down on manual work, however skilled, and families prefer to push their children towards careers in the professions and the public sector. The education system, at all levels, generally provides a poor preparation for working life. Italian universities are full of youngsters studying subjects in which they are not interested but which their parents think are good, regardless of the job prospects.