We spend a lot time studying jobs and workforce data. But even though I'm familiar with the labor situation in Europe, I was still stunned by the data in the New York Times article Young, Educated and Jobless in France.
The key quote is on France's current labor market:
...82 percent of people hired today are on temporary contracts, said Michel Sapin, the labor minister.
The trend they are describing is Europe's shift to a contingent workforce. For younger Europeans (and even older Europeans), this means traditional jobs are near impossible to find. Instead, younger Europeans "float" from temp job to temp job. Again from article:
...the young and educated unemployed, who go from one internship to another, one short-term contract to another, but who cannot find a permanent job...
Even more stunning are the youth unemployment rates in Europe:
Throughout the European Union, unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 is soaring — 22 percent in France, 51 percent in Spain, 36 percent in Italy.
And, like U.S. unemployment numbers, these high rates understate the problem. Many younger Europeans have simply given up looking for work and are not counted in the unemployment numbers:
In Spain, in addition to the 51 percent of young people who are looking for work, 23.7 percent of those 15 to 29 have simply given up looking, said Anne Sonnet, a senior economist studying joblessness at the O.E.C.D. here. In France, it’s 16.7 percent — nearly two million young people who have given up; in Italy, 20.5 percent.