Forty-four percent. That's the alarming unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 25 in Italy, where I traveled recently to meet with other global chief executives and business leaders.
The reason for Italy's high youth unemployment? Tortuous red tape, high taxation and thuggish unions. Many of the CEOs at the event I attended noted that Italy is mired in unionization. This has created a restrictive jobs market that crowds out well-educated, aspirational young people, many of whom are forced to flee their homes and seek work elsewhere.
But "elsewhere" within the European Union is currently not much of an improvement. Even in Germany, the EU's most reliable economy, train and airline unionists have gone on strike, bringing the country to a near-standstill. Incredibly, both Italy and France--where the youth unemployment rate stands at 24 percent--want the EU to foot the bill for their joblessness woes. Global investors' patience has been stretched thin as European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel continue to bicker over how to resolve the region's slowdown.
As I told CNBC Asia's Bernie Lo, the EU's default policy is to tax anything that moves. Led by pro-taxation economists such as France's Thomas Piketty, Europe's policies have become a sort of contagion resonating throughout the rest of the world. The eurozone countries have an imbalanced approach to jumpstarting their economies, relying only on monetary policy but failing to address fiscal issues such as punitive taxation and over-bloated entitlement spending.
You can see how disastrous the results have been: France and Germany's