Published On: Sat, Oct 26th, 2013

What are all these people all going to do? Youth unemployment in Europe is critical. But Africa is going to get even worse.

In much of southern Europe the unemployment rate for young people under the age of 25 remains stubbornly high – at over 61% in Greece and 56% in Spain.  This is not just a disaster for countries on the European periphery.  In Italy 40% have no job and in France 25.5% are unemployed.  Even the UK, which prides itself in its flexible labour regulations, has 21.1% of young people loitering around with no job.  The only big EU country that is not in trouble is Germany, with 7.7% youth unemployment.

This is clearly a terrible state for young people to be in.


Youth Unemployment in EU is a disaster

Youth Unemployment in EU is a disaster

What is odd is that Europe is facing a population decline – you would have thought that as the number of people starts to fall the value of people would go up and unemployment numbers would go down.  This does not appear to be happening: Europe is losing jobs faster than it is losing people.

As a result,  many young, educated, southern Europeans are heading north, driving up competition for jobs in the north as well.

But if you think Europe has problems, look further south to Africa.  While Europe’s population is going to decline, Africa’s population is going to explode, as the chart below, from the United Nations, demonstrates.  It provides this historical numbers for Europe and Africa, from 1950 and provides four population scenarios from 2013 to 2050.

Europe’s population in the 1950s was more than double the population of Africa.  By 2013 Africa’s population was significantly larger than Europe’s.  What is terrifying is how under all scenarios the United Nations estimates that the future population of Africa is set to explode.  The dashed green line with circles shows what would happen if fertility in Africa remained as it is today – and it rises to over 3.2 billion.  In all other scenarios they assume fertility rates will decline.   In contrast, the dotted blue line shows that if fertility in Europe remained as it is today it would drop by over 100 million people.  In all other scenarios they assume that fertility rates – and immigration – will slow the decline.

Population trends for Europe and Africa

What are all these young people in Africa going to do?  Young people need jobs to pay taxes to pay for looking after the elderly and the next generation of young people.

There are only so many primary industry jobs – access to mines, forests and farming.  Those raw materials are put into factories to make goods for people who want them.

But there are only so many secondary industry factor jobs out there, and there is no sign that Africa, with all of its structural problems, will become the manufacturing centre of the world.

And as for service sector jobs, well they predominantly service primary and secondary industries.

What you can imagine is lots and lots of servants.  African wealth and status in the age of slavery was heavily linked to how many people you controlled.  Most of these people were unproductive and were effectively useless mouths to feed. Perfect to sell to unscrupulous western slavers in return for simple manufactured trinkets.

Large numbers of low value people scraping a meagre existence is not conducive to a democratic, egalitarian society.

What you should expect is the wealth of African nations to be controlled by a very few, who are aware of how dangerous it would be to lose power and to become like one the masses.

This would imply an increase in the number of hereditary African dictatorships and  an overwhelming desire by rational Africans to emigrate to a depopulating Europe.  This will push up European unemployment levels and will cause social unrest.

This is going to be messy.


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  • Ludmila Morozova-Buss, M.S.

    The scarriest thing is.. that they do not want to work. They somehow have money.
    .. they have money for beer, for coffee, for eating at restaurants. How is that possible at all? Who pays for them? L.

    • Craig Anderson

      Ludmila, I think a lot of the unemployed do want to work but the incessant destruction of jobs worldwide makes it harder and harder to find work. There are too many people looking for too few jobs globally, and I don’t see how that situation will improve. It’s great for employers and investors but tough on job seekers. Technology is obliterating millions of redundant and/or unnecessary positions. As far as money for beer, coffee, and cafes, I am not sure what the alternatives are for rich countries: I have a cousin in Germany (from former GDR, limited skills) who has been unemployed for 20 years. He lives near Frankfurt in a small flat and even gets a paid vacation to India every December.

  • Alain C. Ah-Yuen

    Yes, this situation seems to be like a bomb ticking and waiting to explode.

  • Catalin Tutunaru

    “What are all these people going to do?”

    If you look on the street, you’ll find the answer … countless uprisings in most European countries will finally generate a profound revolution that will change Europe!
    At this point each one is focused on the problems of his country, but soon will realize that the problems they face are generated by the same source… that will be the moment when they begin to seek each other using social media tools.
    From that point on things will get out of control, and the events will happen with extreme violence and at breakneck speed

  • ClydeDNA

    What is crazy is that you look around in these counties and see sooo much work to do. I note that when a shopkeeper or some business people get a bit ahead, instead of investing in new paint for the storefront, or something else that’s needed, they buy USA Treasury bonds! No investing in their own country. I hate that. Through no fault of our own, the money comes to us USA of all people. You’re right about this being a time bomb.

    • ClydeDNA

      Something like this is happening in parts of the USA as well. A city takes in as much tax funds as they can, then sends the money to pensioners who have long since moved to Florida. We need to figure out how to figure this out.

  • OSENI Olanrewaju Kamil-M

    It is worrisome that this is piece is from an European but not the policy makers in Africa. I am African(Nigerian) and this worries me greatly. Our leaders don’t have any statistics t measure this and are way too busy stealing or wasting the monies on something that will not benefit the citizens. There are so many opportunities in Africa that will generate lasting job opportunities( Manufacturing, Telecommunication,Transport,Tourism and a host of other industries) but the leaders are not providing the necessary environment to make the FDI comes or even for wealthy citizen to invest. The risk is too high. I truly wish the African leaders will bring this to the front burner in years to come. Youth employment in Africa is a bomb waiting to explode and the effect might stay with us for a long time. The world is battling with terrorism and insecurity and I guess that these are fall out of unemployment’s in time past not tackle.
    @Tristan Fischer thanks for writing about this.

  • Sérgio Meyer Portugal

    Global population growth X Mechanization of production

    The solution? Maybe a complex entertainment system and culture based on the web and in the local community.

  • Catalin Parascan

    While I don’t know that much about the context that lead to this soon-to-happen unemployment crisis I can share a bit about my european jobless experience.

    ‘Being unemployed doesn’t have many silver linings’ but if you struggle enough you can find some advantages that will serve to your benefits later on. There’s no doubt that not having a job is one of the biggest challenges one could face.

    The reason why I’m writing about unemployment is mainly because I’m directly affected by this whole European economical context. However, I get the fact that there’s a crisis out there and employers are reluctant to hire young (but skilled) people.

    Let’s take my case for example:

    I’ve turned 26 this year and I’m unemployed for more than six months now thus making this the biggest challenge in my life so far. And I’ve been trough some tough times, that’s for sure. The feeling of joblessness can limit your horizon very much should you have self-esteem problems. Just imagine starting every morning by reading an email, which says that you’re not good enough for the opening you’ve just applied the day before. Every day for six months. It can shake you up really good if you can’t handle the emotional baggage that comes with unemployment.

    Sometimes I think of it as being very similar with the emotional stages of cancer diagnosis. You start with denial (It can’t be true I don’t have a job with my experience) and continue with anger (It’s not fair. Why me?) until you’re completely stressed out (I can’t deal with this. It’s very sad). Then you go from fear (I’m going to be jobless for a long time from now on. And you start panicking, as you don’t see many solutions) to acceptance (Okay, it’s true I don’t have a job but complaining all day about won’t bring me one) just so you end up fighting and hoping that something will happen and you’ll get back on track.

    A friend of mine said a couple of days ago that highly skilled people shouldn’t be out of employment no matter what the economy situation is. I share his train of thoughts not just because I’m out of work but also because I think that these kinds of people can add value to a company because they know how to deal with stress, they have perspective, they’re persistent, they know where they are and they know where to go.

    Personally, i think that in some cases it’s a matter of not being able to recognize one’s potential to do great things. Without any doubts, in my case it will be a leap of faith on behalf of the employers, as my work experience wasn’t enough to secure a job so far. I guess I’m still working on being the right guy at the right moment.

    • rob risley

      Catalin: You sound highly intelligent, perhaps brilliant. You will find a job, and help the world someday with your keen mind. Please keep the faith. You will succeed.
      Robert Risley

  • Alex Simonelis

    The solution starts with decent, non-corrupt governments that pursue reasonable economic and general welfare policies.

    • Catalin Tutunaru

      @Alex “decent, non-corrupt government”
      That is utopia!
      Polititians aren’t decent people… decent people keep distance of politic actitivities.
      Government are corrupt because of today election system… as long as they get money for campaings from corporations, they will not represent people interests.

      • Alex Simonelis

        It’s too cynical to say that there are no decent politicians.

        But let me re-phrase:

        “decent, relatively uncorrupt governments”

        • Catalin Tutunaru

          The problem regarding corruption perception is that people feel most of the time the small corruption and they tend to ignore the big corruption.
          Also, the perception depends on local culture, as I have experience from two different countries, I can say that it isn’t such a big difference as seen on the transparency map between Norway and Romania.
          Some forms of corruption are considered acceptable in some cultures, and it is also a difference regarding the way the corruption scandals are managed in different countries and this influence direct the perception.

          By example, when in Norway it was a huge issue regarding the way that most of ministries spent public funds (14th of 16th ministries), only one minister quit from his position (and it was promoted like a rock star on national tv channel for his courage by taking this step), and the mass-media halted the takings about the subject in just one week, nobody was prosecuted or obliged to return the money!
          If the same level of scandal it will be in Romania, the local and national mass-media, the opposition parties and the civil society active groups will push for all government to step back, will address statements to the General Prosecutor and so on… the scandal will take months!

          So, in conclusion, by my experience, the corruption is as big everywhere in the world, the only difference is in the number of people involved in the corruption system.
          In poor countries, corruption is smaller in amount of money involved in each corruption action, but in the same time is widespread at all levels of society, and don’t use very sophisticated methods, so as from time to time some corrupt people are sent to jail… in the rich countries corruption is made by few people, but more money are involved and more difficult is to punish them.

          • Alex Simonelis

            ” the corruption is as big everywhere in the world, the only difference is in the number of people involved in the corruption system.”

            Differences in breadth and depth are real differences. It makes no sense to say things are different, and they are the same.

            And I’m sure has objective metrics.

          • Catalin Tutunaru

            @Alex “And I’m sure has objective metrics.”

            The corruption it is a crime with two criminals involved in, the corrupt and the corrupter, the one which give money for illegal actions is not counted in these statistics!

            By example, when Kvaerner company came from Norway to Romania and bought for almost nothing the biggest heavy-machine factory, this action was counted as corruption on Romania but not in Norway, here it was considered as a normal practices of business!

            When I had a discussion about this subject with a Norwegian, and asked him about what kind of money he believe it was used for corrupting the members of Romanian Government, he said that obviously was black money involved, being impossibly to justify legally this kind of payment from company account.
            So, my next question for him was: How a Norwegian company can have black money if they have only legal activities here in Norway?!
            At that time, my discussion partner get stuck, being impossible to explain how can be produced black money without existing a black market and all the illegal activities involved by existence of.

            And this is just an example about how the metrics are wrong!

          • Alex Simonelis

            The metrics may not be prefect, but I doubt that they are “wrong”.

            There ARE differences in corruption among countries – that’s a fact. Norway != Mexico.

          • Catalin Tutunaru

            @Alex “Norway != Mexico.”

            I see where you are wrong now… it is the perception, so, if the Statoil goes in Mexico and pay some officials to give them some approvals to dig into the ground in order to extract cheap oil this is corruption only for Mexico and not for Norway… deeply wrong!

          • Alex Simonelis

            Not wrong in the least.

            You’re ignoring reality if you think countries are identical in corruption.

          • Catalin Tutunaru

            @Alex “ignoring reality”

            In fact, countries that appear on the map as having low corruption, are the countries that export corruption to the poor countries … tax havens were not been created by the countries of the “third world”, this is a fact and can not be ignored!
            If they have no corruption, why they need tax havens? What do they have to hide?

          • Alex Simonelis

            No one ever said there was zero corruption in a given country.

            The point is that there are big differences in levels of corruption among the countries of the world.

          • Catalin Tutunaru

            On my map, I count twice every action which export corruption from rich to poor countries!
            Is like the difference between when you slap a kid, or the kid slap you.

            In poor countries, many forms of corruption represents the only way to survive, I don’t count this.
            The low level public officers from Mexico, never get rich because they are corrupt, because the black money they ask for, are just helping them to survive into a society that do not take care of minimal living necessities of humans… so they have in my opinion some extenuating circumstances/acceptable motivations.

            But when we talk about a rich country, this is not acceptable… it is all about greed!
            I hope you don’t share the same philosophy “Greed is Good” like Gekko.

          • Alex Simonelis

            I don’t share Gekko’s philosophy. And greed is not limited to the rich, or to the developed world.

            I do share the belief that reality needs to be recognized. provides a reasonably good snapshot of corruption reality.

          • Catalin Tutunaru

            Alex, please tell me how do you quantify the following situation:
            in one country we have only one case where a person get corrupt for 1 million dollars, and in another country 1 million people get corrupt, each of them, for only 1$.
            In both countries the amount of money involved in corruption cases are equal (1 million dollars), but the number of people involved in corruption it is radically higher in the second one.
            So, which country have higher level of corruption?

          • Alex Simonelis

            The short answer is this. I’m not an expert in survey methodologies. But, has a good reputation and, despite not being perfect, I find their rankings generally credible.

            It’s a known, and obvious, fact that in some countries corruption is a huge problem, while in others it is much less so. That’s reality.

          • Catalin Tutunaru

            I do not consider myself an expert in the field, but I like to filter the information and I rely more on my own knowledge, experience and personal logic than on the results from a hypothetical international body.
            If you have the curiosity to check the list of TI personnel (at each person they provide information about citizenship), you will discover that the total number of Asians, Africans, Eastern Europeans and Latin Americans involved in all departments of TI it is insignificant compared to the total number of personnel!

            So, when a German, French or Irish person evaluate a country like Mexico (where people are beheaded on street) you can’t expect to understand the deep cause of, naturally it will react at violent and shocking images with the result of exaggerating the approximated numbers about corruption.
            In my opinion, those who do evaluations must be from countries geographically and culturally close to the country that assesses, this being the only way to improve the quality of evaluation and to do it as close to reality as possible.

  • Charles Utter

    Free the people and they will prosper.

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