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Richard Quest in Davos: 'Miserable' unemployment issue affects the EU

ANALYSIS: Richard Quest

There's been a slow-burning undercurrent at Davos; this year's smouldering issues are jobs and rising unemployment, especially in the European Union.

The International Labour Organisation's report announced that 200-million people would be officially out of work in 2013. (Supplied)

In coffee bars and seminars, panels and interviews, leaders and chief executives alike are now starting to realise that the jobless numbers present the biggest crisis facing the world today.

This item first landed on the unofficial agenda at the start of the week, when the International Labour Organisation's report announced that 200-million people would be officially out of work in 2013. Guy Ryder, the organisation's director general, told me: "Politicians have no excuse for not knowing the problem is a paralysis of policy."

When Spain's unemployment numbers were published – showing a record 26% and 55% youth unemployment – the elephant in the living room could no longer be ignored.

Maurice Lévy, chief executive of Publicis, said: "I'm sure that everyone is perfectly conscious of this miserable situation. This is very tough ... I think it's worse than obscenity. And the responsibility lies in many, many constituencies."

When I asked Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt about her thoughts on unemployment issues facing the European Union, she responded: "We find it hugely offensive; when you look at youth employment, there's nothing that concerns me or other Europeans more. This is something that is bad for the young people individually, but it's bad for our society."

Jobs, jobs, jobs
In short: 'Jobs, jobs, jobs' is now the rallying cry. And for good reason. The PricewaterhouseCoopers CEO survey released on Monday showed that social unrest topped the list of concerns for chief executive officers, with 75% worrying about how it would impact on their organisations.

Of course there is a huge gap between talking about unemployment at Davos and actually creating jobs, but at least this year at the World Economic Forum the voices of those without jobs have been heard. Now let's see if anyone does anything about it.

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