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What a fine mess….

Just mind games or is there an element of truth. We keep on hearing and reading that the worst of the recession is behind us, and that from now on it can only get better. However, this morning’s newspapers don’t entirely support this particular point of view.

There has been a trend over the past few months for workers to hold company directors hostage in the hope of gaining improved severance conditions. It was quite surprising however to read that the fashion has extended to a French hospital, where three members of the management team were held for around ten hours on Friday in protest against working conditions.

There are then the latest unemployment figures from Spain, where 4,6 million, or more than 20% of the workforce, are now out of work. Two years ago, the figures were 2,2m and just over 9% respectively, so have more than doubled over that period (despite the government insisting at the beginning of 2009 that the figure wouldn’t reach 4m). What seems alarming is that resignation seems to have come out stronger than the spirit of resistance, and the traditional May 1st social demonstrations didn’t raise more than a whimper.

Back to France, where according to a recent study, only 36% of young people who completed their higher education syllabus in 2009 have found work (and only half of these actually have the type of job they were looking for, and less than a quarter are on permanent rather than temporary contracts). And pretty soon, the 2010 promotions will be on the market, looking for the same opportunities.

Finally, in the US, where 15 million people (9,7%) are out of work, there is reported to be a crisis in the middle classes, where there is a strong representation of the Small to Medium Entreprises, who are taking longer to see any signs of a recovery than the larger groups who have easier access to the necessary credits.

There is one interesting piece of more positive news however, concerning the French government organisation (APEC) that is most prominant in bringing together jobs and suitable candidates for management-level positions. They are testing an approach where the CV and cover letter are replaced by a 45-minute on-line questionnaire which tests the candidate out on various practical aspects of the job he is interested in. Differentiation on responses to real-life situations rather than the school you attended. If this approach could be generalised, in a generation’s time we may have people in authority who are actually capable of sorting out the current mess we’ve all got ourselves into.

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