Been chatting with my buddy John about the scary stuff in this week's excellent Economist overview of the present and future of Europe. E.g.: "At 40%, youth unemployment in Spain is not just high; it is a moral indictment of an entire system."
Well, yes. But wait--these are Spanish statistics we are talking about. Does anyone take at face value any number generated in Club Med? Put another way: are these 40 percent really staying home sitting on their thumbs and slant-drilling into daddy's pension pool? Some, sure. But a good many, I suspect, have found a way to work off the books, reducing the nominal report to--
--to what, exactly? Of course I don't know for sure. To complicate things, I'm sure the degree of misreporting varies from place to place; I would expect better data from (say) Helsinki than I would from Athens (we all remember --yes--? that wonderful New York Times aerial photo a few weeks back showing all the off-the-books swimming pools in the mother of civilization).
But it's not just Club Med. The Economist says that in Belgium, the portion of potential workers between 55 and 64 actually labor force is just 35 percent--a fact which the E finds "disastrous," reporting that "in Sweden, the proportion is twice as high." I have no idea what to make of this, not least because Belgium is a country I could never figure out. No, rather two countries, yoked unwillingly together with a world capital at center. Repeating, must we believe that the non-working 65-percent cohort of Belgian junior/seniors is simply sitting it out (over an agreeable Belgian beer, perhaps?). Is Sweden really that different? Or is the Sweden number an index of Belgian laziness as of sloppy Belgian reporting?