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Nearly Half of Younger Southern Europeans Underemployed

Nearly Half of Younger Southern Europeans Underemployed

by Steve Crabtree and Anita Pugliese

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The scarcity of good jobs has been one of the most troubling aspects of the economic crisis facing southern Europe, particularly for younger people with little job experience. In 2013, nearly half of 15- to 29-year-olds in six southern European countries are underemployed -- meaning they are either unemployed or working part time but wanting full-time work.


Though the unemployment rate is the labor market indicator that typically grabs headlines, underemployment may be almost as damaging to younger people in terms of their own long-term prospects and their countries' labor productivity. Temporary and part-time jobs are those most often available to young people, and they are often the first to be laid off because they lack seniority. Underemployment rates are much lower among southern Europeans aged 30 to 49 (26%) and those aged 50 and older (24%).

Young people in southern Europe almost universally (90%) say it is a bad time to find a job in their communities, versus about two-thirds of young people in western Europe (67%) and eastern Europe (68%). However, at 57%, labor force participation among young southern Europeans is as high as it has been over the last several years, suggesting that those who find themselves out of work do not have the option of leaving the workforce altogether -- to pursue educational opportunities, for example -- until the labor market improves.

Economic hardship may help explain why it is not feasible for many underemployed youth in the region to drop out of the labor market. In most southern European countries, young people have been increasingly likely to say their standard of living is getting worse; in Cyprus and Greece, well over half now respond this way. Many who are unemployed may continue to search for jobs to claim unemployment benefits.


Bottom Line

Controversy over the costs and benefits of austerity programs continues to rage in Europe, with the need to reform the unsustainable economic policies of debt-stricken countries set against the real pain those reforms are causing. Gallup trends demonstrate just how vulnerable young people in crisis-stricken countries are to the job losses that have accompanied drastic government cutbacks and economic adversity in the private sector.

In many cases, being underemployed early in their working lives may affect young people's long-term prospects. A recent Economist article cites academic studies showing that "people who begin their careers without work are likely to have lower wages and greater odds of future joblessness than those who don't," with a typical wage differential of 20% lasting for about 20 years. As European leaders discussed at the second youth unemployment summit in Paris last month, careful study of labor market issues facing young people in each country is important to mitigating those effects.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2009-2013 in each country. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from ±2 percentage points to ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

European countries are sorted in regional categories as follows:

Western Europe -- Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom

Southern Europe -- Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain

Eastern Europe -- Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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