I took part in a debate on Europe with a Danish, a German and a Spaniard. The moderator was Portuguese (I am Italian). We agreed that many socio-economic issues can only be solved (internalized) at the European level. I wish to present support for an (obvious) point I made during the debate: the existence of necessary common european policies must not weaken the fact that member states have to design policies and structural changes that address specific national issues. Take for example the labor markets. Here I present two figures for the countries represented in the debate plus France (I needed a sixth country to make the figure more symmetric and there is really pas d' Europe sans la France). The data start in 1998 and end 2014. The first figure shows the ratio of total employment over population (age between 15 and 74 years old). The second figure shows the share of those same workers by educational level attained. Just a few short comments. Italy has the lowest share of employed population. The lower Italian participation reflects the larger shadow economy but not only: women and young participation rates are very low relative to European standards. Certainly this is an important margin for the Italian economy. Now look at Portugal: participation is high (it declined strongly because of the crisis) but the labor force is relatively little educated (although there has been improvement). Spain employment-population rate followed the real estate bubble (here causality is easier to deduce) but has also slowly shifted its employed population towards highly educated workers. Denmark, the land of happiness (in the words of the Portuguese moderator), has an outstanding participation rate but the crisis appeared to have hit severely the labor market. Participation in France is a flat-line. Germany's participation was at par with France until 2005, then something changed, and participation started to increase (by 7-8 pp!) inexorably.
(click to enlarge)