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Eurozone 'Austerity Measures' Could Lead to 'Economic and Social Disaster'

Economist Dean Baker: Austerity 'Ruining Millions of Lives'

Common Dreams staff

Protesters at an anti-austerity rally in May argue against government cuts. Ana_Rey photo via Flickr.

A spokesman for the European Union warned Monday that "austerity measures" by more financially stable countries in the 17-nation Eurozone—measures that include cutting jobs, salaries and pensions— have contributed to record unemployment in the more struggling members, and could result in "an economic and social disaster," Reuters reported.

The remarks followed new joblessness figures that show more than 18 million people unemployed in the Eurozone, with approximately 25.5 million without a job in the larger, 27-nation European Union.

While statistically stable, the additional 34,000 people out of work in the zone brings unemployment to the highest rate since the euro was created in 1999, according to The Independent.

According to Reuters:

"It is clearly unacceptable that 25 million Europeans are out of work," European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said. Of data showing a record 22.7 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds out of work in Europe in August, he said, "EU institutions and governments, businesses and social partners at all levels need to do all they can to avoid a lost generation, which would be an economic and social disaster."

In Greece, unemployment was at 24.4 percent in June, The New York Times reported Monday, while the number out of work in Spain was 25.1 percent—and nearly 53 percent for those younger than 25 years old.

"Austerity measures" instituted by the governments of the most financially unstable countries "are ruining millions of lives," Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy and Research wrote Monday.

In late September, The New York Times reported that formerly middle-class residents of Madrid had taken to eating out of trash cans after unemployment benefits had run out, and the Catholic charity Caritas reported it had fed nearly 1 million people in 2010— and 65,000 more in 2011.

Meanwhile, governments in Greece and Spain plan even tighter budgets, according to The New York Times, prompting fears that unemployment may increase still.

Still, Todd warned that the EU must do all it can to avoid "a lost generation."

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