Acton Institute Powerblog

Temporary jobs have long-term effects on European youth

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Ask any economist what the greatest force undermining prosperity is, and he will answer with one word: uncertainty. But since economics is just human action, uncertainty hurts every aspect of peoples’ lives, upending their plans and delaying – or destroying – their dreams.

In Europe, a growing number of young people are unable to engage in the rites of passage that marked the entrance of previous generations into adulthood – a subject Marco Respinti explores on the Religion & Liberty Transatlantic website. The lack of full-time, permanent employment is the product of another familiar economic term: unintended consequences. Respinti writes:

The main reason young people cannot find full-time, gainful employment has been known nearly as long as the problem has been ingrained in the European economic culture: artificially high wages and benefits for workers, inflexible labor regulations, steep taxes on profits and productivity, and an outlook that generally discourages entrepreneurship. Employing someone for a temporary job is less onerous for an employer, even if this means doing without the most skilled labor for a given position.

Eurostat, an official agency of the European Commission, found that 11.1 percent of working-age Europeans are employed in temporary jobs, and “the proportion of the EU-28 workforce in the age group 20–64 years reporting that their main job was part-time increased steadily from 16.5 percent in 2005 to 19.0 percent by 2015.”

With only short-term job prospects, the young aren’t able to make long-term commitments, like signing a mortgage to buy a house or having a stable source of income to raise a family. As The Telegraph of London documented, the young are also poorer in absolute terms. By the time they turn 30, Millennial men earn £12,500 (€14,750, or $15,500 U.S.) less than the previous generation. This compels the young to depend on their parents for longer and longer periods of time.

This instability impacts both the younger generation and those yet to come. One report found that 20 percent of young Americans had delayed marriage due to economic uncertainty. The low marriage rate, in turn, influences their children’s economic prospects. And according to the Guttmacher Institute, financial woes are a leading factor in a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

The web of economic laws, designed to protect the job stability of this generation’s parents – even at the price of economic growth and dynamism – denies EU youth the opportunity to become independent. They must become more dependent upon their parents and the state, respectively. Meanwhile, the dream of using their God-given gifts in a permanent career, starting their own family, or even being able to plan beyond the next three months, recedes into the economic background.

To paraphrase a Marxist poet: What happens to a dream deferred? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it implode?

Read Marco Respinti’s full essay here.

(Photo credit: TaxCredits.net. CC BY 2.0.)

Rev. Ben Johnson Rev. Ben Johnson is Senior Editor at the Acton Institute.

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