06:48 GMT01 June 2020
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    The European Union is a club of "high and severe unemployment" with joblessness a key characteristic of the single market concept since its inception, new research has found. The study refutes the argument that the financial crisis was the cause of the bloc's troubles.

    A report compiled by London-based think tank Civitas concluded that unemployment in the 12 founding members of the single market is a "distinct characteristic" of the EU, with figures showing rates are far higher than in other non-EU countries.

    Citing OECD data from 1993 to 2013, the research compared the unemployment levels of the single market's 12 foundation members — Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK with those of non-EU countries Australia, Canada, Iceland, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland and the US.

    The research found that unemployment has historically been far higher among EU nations than non-EU nations, striking out against the argument that the financial crisis as the trigger of the bloc's unemployment problems.

    Unemployment an EU Problem, Not a European One

    In a damning assessment of the impact EU membership has on member countries, the report takes special notice of the unemployment rates of EU nations, compared to those the independent European countries of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

    In 2013, the weighted mean unemployment rate for the 12 single market nations was 11.2 percent, while the same rate for the independent European nations was only 3.9 percent, leading the report's author Michael Burrage to dispel myths that high joblessness is a uniquely European phenomenon.

    "Over these 21 years, the 12 EU countries have had a significantly higher rate of unemployment than the ten independent countries," the academic wrote.

    "This comparison does not therefore support the idea that there is a peculiarly European high unemployment profile. On the contrary, it suggests that high unemployment is a distinctive and enduring EU characteristic, not a European one."

    Financial Crisis Used as an Excuse

    The Civitas report also takes aim as what it perceives to be the myth that the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 triggered the EU's high rates of unemployment, which saw joblessness rise to 25 percent in countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal.

    Despite acknowledging that the financial crisis certainly exacerbated joblessness within the bloc, Burrage uses the data to point out that historic levels of long-term employment — joblessness for a year or more — were consistently higher in the EU than other countries included in the research, from as early as 1993.

    "While recent rates of long-term youth unemployment are astonishingly high, they were almost as high in some countries over the first decade of the single market."

    The report accused the media and EU officials of using the financial crisis to act as a smokescreen to cover the single market's inherent flaws.

    "The financial crisis not only brought the scale of the problem to media attention, it also provided a convenient and plausible explanation of it. The crisis was often portrayed as some external, primarily Anglo-Saxon, event with little to do with any of the inherent characteristics of single market, and hence diverted attention away from searching for possible causes within the EU itself."

    "There can be little doubt that the financial crisis exacerbated the problem, but it can hardly provide a satisfactory explanation of why the EU unemployment has exceeded that of other OECD countries over the entire 21 years of the single market, and indeed for some years preceding it."

     Questions Raised Over Single Market

    The report comes amid European-wide debate over the functioning nature of the EU, given the severe economic and social hardships faced by many countries badly affected by the global financial crisis.

    The Greek debt crisis has led many economists to argue that the single currency was a significant factor in Greece's downfall, as the country didn't have the ability to reduce the value of its currency and therefore stimulate more trade and growth.

    All of these factors have led to louder calls for EU reform, and even others, who suggest the bloc is a failed concept, with Burrage arguing that Eurocrats have been unwilling to properly look at the failures of the single market system and its correlation with unemployment.

    "EU leaders and cheerleaders have been reluctant to recognize it as a chronic condition that has accompanied the single market throughout its life."


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