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‘Bold action’ needed on Europe unemployment: Report

European employment targets are "unrealistic" and "bold action" is needed to boost job creation, according to a report published by the Ambrosetti Forum ahead of the open of its international economics conference.

About 5.6 million jobs have been lost across the 28 countries that belong to the European Union (EU) since the global financial crisis of 2008, Ambrosetti's economists say.

"The economic crisis produced growing unemployment levels in the EU, which now requires bold action from policymakers to boost labor demand as well as to implement labor market structural reforms," the economists wrote in their "Labor market scenario in Europe" report.


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Europe's high unemployment, low price rises and stagnant growth is likely to be a hot topic at this year's Ambrosetti Forum—the annual get-together of heads of states, top business people and academics at Lake Como in Italy. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development warned this week that unemployment in its member countries will remain well-above pre-crisis levels until 2016 at the earliest.

Unemployment averaged 10.3 percent across the EU in July—the same as in June. Nearly one-quarter (24.5 percent) of Spaniards were unemployed during the month, along with 12.6 percent of Italians and 11.5 percent of Irish citizens.

With statistics like these in mind, the Ambrosetti report's authors cast doubt on the likelihood of the EU meeting its target of creating 20 million new jobs by 2020.

"This seems a particularly unrealistic target for Spain, Italy and France: they need to create 4.4 million, 2.5 million and 2 million new jobs respectively," they wrote.

The economists also highlighted the growing differences in employment levels across the EU, with rates in Germany, Finland and Denmark remaining above 70 percent. Germany in particular stands out as one of the few countries in the region where unemployment has decreased since from the crisis, with only 4.9 percent of Germans jobless in July.

Ambrosetti attributed these countries' success to the high employability of their citizens and the fact that they have reformed their labor markets so that companies can fire and—more importantly—hire people more easily.

"Germany, Denmark and Finland…have implemented ambitious labor market reforms and experimented policies that are considered by the international observers as an example of best practices," the report said.

The economists noted the success of policies such as Germany's apprenticeship programs and Finland's "Youth Guarantee" in combating skills mismatch and youth unemployment. The latter is a huge problem in countries like Spain and Greece, where over half of those aged under 25 are jobless.

According to Ambrosetti, 350 professions in Germany offer apprenticeships of up to three years, over 80 percent of which lead to permanent job contracts.

Meanwhile, Finland has pioneered a soon-to-be-EU-wide program designed to ensure all young people receive a job, traineeship or education offer within four months of leaving compulsory education or becoming unemployed. The EU has allocated 21 billion euros ($27.6 billion) per year to implement the program in other countries.

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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