Three years into its economic rescue and required fiscal pullback, Greece’s unemployment rate keeps rising, with the latest numbers showing another record high of 26.9 percent in April. European authorities continue to keep the country on a short leash, maintaining pressure on Greek leaders to enforce austerity requirements of the country’s bailout by releasing the funds in small chunks.
The jobless statistics released Thursday put Greece’s unemployment rate twice as high as the average across the Eurozone. For young Greeks, April’s statistic was actually an improvement from the month before: 57.5 percent youth unemployment, compared to 58.3 percent in March.
It’s little wonder, then, that protests greeted Monday’s announcement that European financial authorities are throttling the pace of the bailout and hitching the funds to deadlines for further cuts. The New York Times reported that thousands of protesters, “including hundreds of angry police officers on motorbikes,” rallied against the renewed austerity push from the continent’s central powers. Those countries, which have already disbursed more than a quarter-trillion dollars to Greece, want the Athens government to cut another 15,000 jobs from its public payroll and slash wages for thousands of other state employees before releasing the next funds.
The ongoing austerity push in Greece has been far more painful than what the country was promised. The International Monetary Fund acknowledged last month that its predictions for a cut-and-grow turnaround and recovery were far too optimistic. The Greek economy has contracted so far that it is no longer considered a developed country by investors.
The U.S. initially avoided the austerity trap, with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other stimulative measures early in the recession helping put the country on a stronger economic path. But today, after years of disingenuous warnings from conservatives that America was on its way to becoming Greece, lawmakers have shifted from buoying the economy to undermining it through misguided spending cuts. The IMF has criticized the “excessively rapid” cuts, which are keeping unemployment higher and GDP growth lower than they would otherwise be.