Asked about the jobs and growth conundrum – if there aren’t jobs, the economy can’t grow and if the economy can’t grow, it can’t create jobs – Ryder said that “that simple logic … wasn’t apparent to policy-makers who started applying austerity in Europe to tackle the financial crisis.”
“If you’d said that and had been listened to three or four years ago, perhaps you might have been able to avoid some of the excesses of the jobs crisis right now,” he said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“It’s not the only element of the economic malaise we face but it’s the quintessential centre of it all.”
Turning to Spain’s unemployment rate, which has hit a record-high 26 per cent, Ryder said: “The figures that came out this week are absolutely appalling … You can’t see the upturn. But I do think that while we’re all, understandably, focussed on Spain right now, we’re faced with a continuing global jobs crisis.”
He warned that while the intensity of the financial crisis may appear to be receding, jobs’ markets are giving completely different signals.
“We lost over 4 million jobs – 4 million more unemployed in 2012. For 2013 it’s another 5 million and it carries on. The horizon is not in sight.”
He emphasized that point in an interview earlier with Sky News television. “I think we shouldn’t go too quickly into the notion that the crisis is over. For the people in the jobs’ queue, the crisis is very much with us and the queue is getting longer.”
Participants at the panel discussion, who included Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Jim Hagemann Snabe of the German software corporation SAP, agreed on the need for the private sector to invest in education to help address skills mismatches.
Technological changes “are going to require new skills sets,” Ryder said, adding that enterprises should play their part in training people. “Policies that work are policies that actually mix together formal education and work experience - that old idea of apprenticeship.”
Ryder also said international agreements are needed to facilitate the migration of jobseekers. He pointed out that the crisis had brought about significant changes in terms of workforce mobility, citing the example of Spaniards seeking work elsewhere in Europe or in Latin America, and Portuguese workers getting jobs in Angola.
The panel, entitled “The Economic Malaise and its Perils”, was moderated by the Al Jazeera television news channel.