Unemployment rate: 9.6%
2011 GDP growth: 4.3%
Despite Poland experiencing one of the fastest GDP growth rates among debt-riddled euro zone countries, it continues to suffer from high unemployment.
Labor reforms such as limiting early retirement along with Poland’s baby boom in the 1980s has increased participation in the workforce and pushed up unemployment, according to OECD Economist Balazs Egert. "If you had new jobs created, these jobs are offset by a large increase in the participation rate," he said.
Poland’s unemployment rate hit 12.6 percent in May, down 0.3 percentage points from April, but much higher than the 9.6 percent annual average of last year. Young people are bearing the brunt of Poland’s jobs crisis, with more than one in five young people out of work,according to a recent study by the OECD. The youth employment rate jumped as high as 26.7 percent in March from 18.5 percent in December 2007. There’s growing concern that a significant proportion of youth will suffer unemployment or underemployment their entire lives.
Adding to Poland’s unemployment woes, the world’s top steelmaker ArcelorMittal announced job cutsacross Eastern Europe affecting 1,000 workers in Poland. A deepening sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone and slowing economic growth has forced a number of steelmakers to shut or reduce steel production. The lack of jobs and low wages have led to a mass exodus of workers from Poland to Western European countries such as Germany and Austria, which lifted restrictions on Eastern European workersentering their job markets last year. Poland’s average monthly corporate wage of $1,215 in 2011 was about a third of that in Germany.
Pictured: Job fair in Wroclaw, Poland.