Scratch a Progressive, and they’ll tell you that their ideal for what America should look like is the “social democracies” of enlightened Europe. That’s why we need higher minimum wage laws, pro-union mandates, and other regulations on the job market. (One new idea in The New Yorker this week is a three-day work week.) Meanwhile, younger Americans are finding it harder than ever to get started in today’s economy, and surveys show a larger number of Americans than even the late 1970s now think future generations will not be as prosperous as previous generations.
I hope everyone catches up with the story in today’s Wall Street Journal about conditions for young workers in Spain and Italy—and especially the reasons why:
. . . In Europe’s weaker economies, people in their 20s and 30s often have little hope of achieving the careers, wealth and economic security enjoyed by their parents. In places like Spain and Italy, the employment rate has tumbled for people under 40 since 2008, even as it has stayed relatively steady or grown for their parents’ generation.
Their predicament is exposing a painful truth: The towering cost of labor protections that have provided a comfortable life for Europe’s baby boomers is now keeping their children from breaking in.
The older generation benefited from decades of rock-solid job protection, union-guaranteed salary increases and the promise of a comfortable retirement. All this has allowed them to weather Europe’s longest postwar crisis reasonably well.
By contrast, many younger Europeans can hope for little more than poorly paid, short-term contracts that often open a lifelong earnings gap they may never close. Employers in many countries are reluctant to hire on permanent contracts because of rigid labor rules and sky-high payroll taxes that go to funding the huge pension bill of their parents.