Jobs in southern Europe are vanishing at record rates, widening the gap with the more prosperous north.
The unemployment figures for November 2012 published by the European Commission on Tuesday (8 January) show that Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Spain saw the biggest losses compared to November 2011.
The number of people out of work in Cyprus jumped from 9.5 percent to 14 percent. In Greece, it rose from 18.9 percent to 26 percent. The Portuguese toll went from 14.1 percent to 16.3 percent and the Spanish figure went from 23 percent to 26 percent.
Italy fared little better, with the rate climbing from 9.3 percent to 11.1 percent.
By contrast, the German unemployment rate went down a notch to 5.4 percent. It climbed by less than 1 percent in Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands and in the Nordic countries.
The figures for youth unemployment are even more alarming.
In Greece and Spain, around 57 percent of under 25s have no job. In Italy and Portugal, around 38 percent of young people have no way to earn a living.
The difference between the south and north is likely to fuel debate on whether the one-size-fits all fiscal policy in the eurozone is sustainable in the long run.
For his part, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who currently holds the EU presidency, called the results “completely unacceptable” while on a visit to Germany on Tuesday.
Greek leader Antonis Samarras, also in Germany the same day, referred to the fact that EU-mandated austerity is part of the reason for the jobs pain. “Our country is making enormous efforts and many are paying a high price, in order to get things back on track,” he told press.
Pope Benedict XVI in a rare intervention also warned that the EU wealth gap is dangerous for the Union.
Noting that most of the anti-crisis effort so far has been designed to stop markets from pricing southern European government bonds at much higher levels than the benchmark German papers, he said: “If the differential index between financial rates represents a source of concern, the increasing differences between those few who grow ever richer and the many who grow hopelessly poorer, should be a cause for dismay.”
“It is a question of refusing to be resigned to a ‘spread’ in social well-being, while at the same time fighting one in the financial sector,” he added, Bloomberg reports.