Yesterday morning, after a politically charged Sunday which announced that the Francois Hollande has won the first round of the French presidential elections, the Euractiv news site announced that Eurostat (European Union's statistics agency) published a new set of figures measuring this time the level of the "underemployment" in the European Union.
The article raises several very interesting questions. The first and most important one refers to the economic crisis. Is this indeed over and if not and we are still faced with difficulties how long will this last? The unemployment level seems to be on the rise and according to the quoted Eurostat report, part of the unemployed already stopped looking for a job.
If we couple these results with the declining demographics and the anti-immigration feelings at the EU level, we might end up asking ourselves what exactly will happen to for instance our pension funds? As the EU pension systems are pay-as-you go systems we might in the end need to work until later on in life diminishing thus the actual time spent during retirement. This idea has been currently taken into account in Poland where it generated an interesting debate. This is to be followed by an official legal debate in the Polish Sejm (Parliament) on April, 26th.
The second interesting question regards the data available in the Eurostat's report from the 19th of April, 2012. If more people employed in part-time jobs wished they could work more what should be done and at which level in order to ensure their safe transition to full employment? The issue however is not so simple as it depends on two important elements: the work culture (some countries already see an increase in the desire to work part-time) and the legislation. As the report does actually show the percentage of people employed part-time who would like to work more is higher in countries such as Greece or Latvia and much lower in Belgium and the Netherlands.
The last and actually one of the most important elements regards legislation. It is here where theoretically the European Union's institutions could play a stronger role. However, for the moment at least all that the European Commission can do is recommend courses of action to the member states. See for instance the debate about the minimum wage.
These are just some of the most recent social developments on the background of still shaky economic recovery and on-going elections in France, pending for next year in Germany and Italy. Additionally, the ideological fight between the federalists and the inter-governmentalists is likely to increase with more and more voices underlining the necessity to develop better political and economic cooperation within the EU.