Sunday, October 14, 2012


Youth Unemployment and Idleness

The article by Jacob Funk Kirkegaard in VoxEU yesterday (13 October 2012) considers recent youth unemployment statistics using the NEET measure produced by the OECD, a measure specifically designed to report on the situation of a cohort that may be in education and training in large proportions. That measure considers labor non-participation as a share of the total cohort in an age group, in effect counting those in education and training as "active" or employed. The point is not to disguise high unemployment rates among the young--frustrated job seekers are not to be ignored--but to avoid exaggerating their percentage. In considering the first-employment situation in France as compared to other labor markets less in purported need of "fixing" and "flexibility"--back in 2006-- I also made use of the OECD NEET statistics, and am disappointed that pundits and policy makers do not seem to appreciate their usefulness (I rarely see them cited, and believe this sighting worth pointing out).

The article is alternately titled "Youth unemployment in Europe: It’s actually worse in the US" and "Youth unemployment in Europe: More complicated than it looks." The first appears in the RSS feed (an document name), the second, on the article page. Both lede with the abstract:
Youth unemployment in the Eurozone looks like a social and economic disaster in the making – 30%, 40%, even 50% of young people sitting on their hands instead of building skills and experience. This column argues the headline numbers are misleading. While youth unemployment is a serious problem, a large share of EZ youth are not in the labour force, so the headline figures overstate the labour-market ‘scar tissue’ that will be left over from the crisis.
I have no particular criticisms of Kierkegaard's clear article, which contains only a couple of charts and no subtle equations, an article accessible to non-economists, to all (literate) voters. I highlight (my emphasis) three points he makes in conclusion:
What is unfortunate is the timeliness of the measures available. The most recent data are for Q1 2011, about fifty EZ and Greece crisis meetings ago.

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