An additional 1.2 million joined the growing ranks of the reserve army of unemployed over the last year. The long-term decline in employment occurs amid intensifying capitalist competition and a drive by the propertied rulers worldwide to increase the exploitation of labor.
Hit hardest are the so-called peripheral nations, such as Greece and Spain, where official joblessness stands at 19.9 percent and 23.3 percent respectively. Unemployment for persons under 25 is a staggering 49.9 percent in Spain and 48.1 percent in Greece.
On the other hand, the jobless rate fell to 5.8 percent over the last year in Germany, which has yet to experience the unemployment side of the crisis. This disparity is one confirmation that the dominance of the wealthiest exploiting nations of the continent—which had been temporarily camouflaged under pretense of a united Europe—has emerged undisguised and in full force.
The stronger powers, led by Berlin, push more loans on the most heavily indebted, economically weaker nations as they demand and find ways to impose ever more “austerity” to pay for them. That burden has been foisted heaviest on the backs of working people.
The jobless figures came out March 1, the same day a European Union summit opened. The day before, the European Central Bank made another $700 billion of low-interest loans available for European banks, which hold ever mounting and unpayable debts.
Once again EU leaders have kicked the can further down the road by expanding credit. With the new loan, the ECB has flooded European banks with $1.3 trillion in cheap credits over the last few months. These funds are available at 1 percent interest, and banks can borrow virtually unlimited amounts. But each new kick of the can buys the rulers less time and less maneuvering room.
On the last day of the summit 25 of the 27 EU states signed a fiscal pact that sets limits on national debt levels and budget deficits. Stepping out of spending bounds is supposed to be punished with hefty fines. Berlin has been the driving force behind this pact. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed, “We must prove that we really take the monitoring seriously.”
The Spanish government announced Feb. 27 its budget deficit for 2011 was 8.5 percent, 2.5 percent over the target.
The Financial Times recently reported that 160 experts have been recruited in Germany to “improve tax administration in Greece.”
The European Commission forecasts this year the economy will shrink in seven eurozone countries.
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