Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, believes European economies are slanted towards protecting older workers at the cost of new employees.
In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Draghi also warned that “tragic” high levels of youth unemployment in some EU nations had the potential to threaten social harmony in Europe and that rock-bottom inflation was damaging the prospects of the young.
The interview – part of a Guardian series investigating the economic plight of young adults around the world – follows a recent report from Young Enterprise, a leading UK youth charity, which found that young people today were a “generation in crisis” with increasing numbers expressing “serious concern” about obtaining the necessary skills to enter the job market.
The survey of 1,000 16- to 18-year-olds in full-time education found half said greater international competition for jobs would contribute to their ability to land a job, while 46 per cent blamed the continuing fallout from the financial crisis and subsequent recession for the lack of jobs.
In his interview, Mr Draghi told the Guardian there should be a “more open, flexible, innovative and business-friendly society” that did not disadvantage new workers because companies were afraid of taking on new staff.
“Youth unemployment is a tragedy and prevents people from playing a full and meaningful part in society,” he said. “In many countries the labour market is set up to protect older ‘insiders’ – people with permanent, high-paid contracts and shielded by strong labour laws.