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Crisis tightens grip across Europe

Readers in four European countries describe the effects of the economic crisis on their lives and discuss how it should be tackled by individual governments and the EU.

PHILIPPE GESNOUIN, PARIS, FRANCE

I got a new job at the beginning of January after being unemployed for four months. I am a technology transfer associate for a government research centre.

Philippe Gesnouin

My wife is unemployed. She is looking for work but it is very difficult to find a job now.

My contract runs out in three years and I have already started to worry about what will happen afterwards.

Research facilities are getting closed in Europe and companies are not opening new jobs. Life has become more difficult for us also because I took a pay cut - I earn a third less now than during my previous job.

Although the economic crisis is certainly a big problem, I also feel that it is hyped by the media. Every day they come up with new dramatic figures.

European leaders should come up with a collective action plan that will benefit everyone

Yesterday we were told that the unemployment rate reached an all-time high. Of course it's worrying, but then these stories make the situation even worse as they reinforce lack of confidence in the market.

I don't think our government's stimulus plan provides a wise long-term solution. It envisages building of roads and infrastructure without any consideration for the environment. Protecting your own country's jobs, like what Sarkozy is trying to do with the car industry here, is also not a good idea.

I think it is a natural response when resources are scarce to try to protect your country's jobs - look at the reaction in the UK towards Italian workers getting UK jobs. European leaders should come up with a collective action plan that will benefit everyone.

RENARS SPAKS, RIGA, LATVIA

I am self-employed. I sell lockers to schools. I used to work in a bank but a year ago I decided to start my own business.

Renars Spaks

My business is badly affected by the economic crisis. It is about 60 - 70% down since April last year and it's continuing to go down.

I have already started to send my CV to apply for jobs, though finding a job now is very difficult. While a year ago I would have been able to choose what job to do, I would now go for anything - just so that I have a job.

Life is becoming more difficult and ordinary people are getting poorer

My mum works in the police force and her salary got reduced by 20% in December because of the budget deficit. Many other people in the public sector have seen their salaries reduced from five to 20%. There is a rumour that there'll soon be another cut.

People are very upset about the way the country's been governed. There's big inflation and prices are going up. Life is becoming more difficult and ordinary people are getting poorer.

I know that the economic crisis is not just our problem and other countries are going through the same. Globalisation is a reality and there's no going back. But while richer western European countries can afford to subsidise their industries and respectively protect their jobs, poorer ones will lose out.

Our government is happy to take advantage of globalisation when it suits it, like having Latvians working abroad and sending money home, yet it's not so pleased when Hungarian workers come here in search for work.

The EU is one market and one economic zone - it should be united. All countries should agree to sacrifice something for the better future for all.

But I have doubts that all member countries feel the same, because every member wants to gain more and give less.

JOSE M MONTERO, CASTELLON, SPAIN

The situation is very bad here in Spain. We are European champions - not only in football, but also in unemployment.

Jose M Montero

We are greatly suffering from the credit crunch in addition to the burst of the construction bubble. Where I live, on the coast, the impact is quite noticeable.

Construction has almost stopped with many buildings being left unfinished. You can still see signs on empty plots of land, advertising what was once going to be built there.

Castellon is also home to Spain's ceramic tiles industry. Many big companies had to lay off staff as business went down.

You see less people on the streets but there are queues in front of the job centres

Two years ago we had a very low unemployment rate. Now the figures are frightening. Off all the 27 EU countries, Spain has the highest unemployment rate.

I've got friends who were employed in the construction industry, who are now on the dole. Lots of Romanian immigrants were employed by the construction industry. I don't know what's happened to these people, they are probably heading home.

You see less people on the streets but there are queues in front of the job centres.

I am working on a university research project but after three and a half years my contract will end in September.

I don't expect they'll extend it because funding for research is the first thing to get slashed when there's no money. So, I'll probably join the queue in front of the job centres.

LYDIA CHESSUM, MUNICH, GERMANY

Life is very uncertain at the moment. My husband was made redundant in November along with 30 or so other pilots based in Munich.

Lydia Chessum

He was unbelievably lucky to find another job within weeks with the last airline to still be recruiting pilots in Germany.

It's difficult for pilots all over Europe after several airlines went out of business last year. It's now pretty much impossible to get a job in flying now unless you want to do contract work in Asia.

I'm an accountant so the work situation is a bit easier as we tend to be the last department firms cut back on. My hours have been cut from 40 to 35 through Kurzarbeit (short-time working). So my pay will be reduced by that proportion.

We don't want to spend now in case we need the cash in the future

I am a senior manager, I currently do 50 - 60 hours a week and I will continue to do so without being paid for the extra hours. The work has to be done and we are already short-staffed.

But I still have a job - or at least for now. Our subsidiary company, which employs more than 10,000 people around the world, half of whom in Germany, has just filed for bankruptcy.

The problem is that everything is on hold. We want to spend some money on renovating our flat, our car is due for replacement, we haven't had a holiday for ages. But we don't want to spend now in case we need the cash in the future.

The German government is dealing with the crisis as well as it can. After all it's a global crisis. But they're going to get tied up in knots over problems with Opel and how they can protect German jobs without giving cash to General Motors.

It appears to me that protectionism will inevitably happen because the EU does not have the cash to fund a Europe-wide programme of saving jobs. So it's natural that individual states will want to ensure their cash protects jobs locally.


Do you live in Europe? Are you worried about job security? How have you been affected by the current economic crisis? Send us your comments using the form below.

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