Forty-four percent. That’s the alarming unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 25 in Italy, where I traveled recently to meet with other global chief executives and business leaders.
The reason for Italy’s high youth unemployment? Tortuous red tape, high taxation and thuggish unions. Many of the CEOs at the event I attended noted that Italy is mired in unionization. This has created a restrictive jobs market that crowds out well-educated, aspirational young people, many of whom are forced to flee their homes and seek work elsewhere.
But ‘elsewhere’ within the European Union is currently not much of an improvement. Even in Germany, the EU’s most reliable economy, train and airline unionists have gone on strike, bringing the country to a near-standstill. Incredibly, both Italy and France – where the youth unemployment rate stands at 24 percent – want the EU to foot the bill for their joblessness woes. Global investors’ patience has been stretched thin as European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel continue to bicker over how to resolve the region’s slowdown.
As I told CNBC Asia’s Bernie Lo, the EU’s default policy is to tax anything that moves. Led by pro-taxation economists such as France’s Thomas Piketty, Europe’s policies have become a sort of contagion resonating throughout the rest of the world. The eurozone countries have an imbalanced approach to jumpstarting their economies, relying only on monetary policy but failing to address fiscal issues such as punitive taxation and over-bloated entitlement spending.
You can see how disastrous the results have been: France and Germany’s industrial production has turned down recently. Their purchasing managers’ index (PMI) numbers are below the 50-mark line, indicating contraction. This trend is especially worrisome because Europe is a bigger trading partner with China than the U. S. is.
So what’s the solution?
The EU would do well to look east, specifically to China.
China Handing over Its Economy’s Keys to Capital Markets
Last week senior Chinese officials met in Beijing to resolve the sorts of problems the EU can’t seem to fix, let alone acknowledge. On the chopping block were regulations – hundreds of them. According to Premier Li Keqiang, 416 lines of red tape have allegedly either been abolished or eased in order to facilitate business growth in important sectors such as transportation, logistics and telecommunications. In June, Li vowed to slash an additional 200 measures.
This post was published at GoldSeek on 28 October 2014.