European youth scour continent in search of scarce jobs

Mike Redmond was in Greece when he heard that he could get paid as much as $18,000 to take experimental drugs for medical research. ``It's easy money,'' explains Mr. Redmond, who joined scores of other European youth volunteering to take the drugs in a Munich clinic while traveling around Europe in search of work.

The job search by Redmond, a former resident of Burnley, near Manchester, England, is not unusual. Thousands of youths are wandering Europe in search of employment. If they can't find work, some turn to schemes such as Redmond's.

This lack of jobs stands out on the economic map of the continent. European unemployment now runs over 11 percent with at least 16 million workers looking for jobs.

An amount equal to 4 percent of the working population in Britain is ``on the dole'' (getting government unemployment benefits). Economists estimate 30 percent of Italy's youth are looking for jobs. Youth unemployment is ``the failure of Europe,'' says Steven Bell, chief economist for Morgan Grenfell, an investment banking firm in London.

Last week, Karl Otto P"ohl, president of the Bundesbank, West Germany's central bank, conceded the country's 8.3 percent unemployment rate was a weak spot.

The high rate of joblessness is Europe's political sore point, and a key election issue in Britain. And analysts say it is contributing to West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's low standing in the opinion polls.

There are many different causes for the high unemployment. In Britain, says Mr. Bell, there is low labor mobility, in part because almost 60 percent of the working population own their own homes. As houses in the prosperous areas are more expensive, few workers want to sell their homes to move to more expensive areas. And, during the economic shakeout of the early 1980s, British employers decided to fire workers instead of cut wages.

In fact, says Harold Rose, economic adviser to Barclays Bank International Ltd. in London, there are many jobs available but they are not for skilled positions. Unemployment benefits are so high, he says, they act as as a deterrent and keep workers from taking unskilled jobs. In West Germany, where benefits are also high, many of the idle males have working wives. Thus income levels are relatively high.

An added problem in efforts to keep unemployment levels down is a trend toward automation. Rather than add new workers to jobs, West German companies have concentrated on spending money on machinery to increase poductivity.

On top of these structural problems there are cyclical difficulties associated with ``Euro-creep,'' the continent's slow growth rate. In the fastest growing economy, Britain, gross national product is expected to grow by 3 percent this year. West Germany, considered the locomotive of Europe, will grow by only 1 to 2 percent. France's economy will expand by 2 to 3 percent, and Italy's will be only slightly better. In all of the countries, US imports are siphoning sales away from domestic products.

Franz-Josef Trouvain, chief economist for the Deutsche Bank AG, says he believes demographic trends - a lower rate of population growth - will eliminate the problem of unemployment by 1990.

This might be true in a few years, but it would be hard to convince Mr. Redmond and the band of European youth sitting in a railway station here.

``The UK is the worst job market in the world,'' says Kevin Heaton who has spent the last four years selling cold drinks on the beach in France, picking oranges in Spain, and working as a cook.

Because unemployment is so high in West Germany, it is difficut to get working papers. Thus many of the migrants get jobs ``in the black'' - that is, without legal papers.

But the easiest money to be made is trying new drugs for the clinics. ``There's nothing to it,'' says Kevin Keen, another British citizen who is taking an experimental epilepsy drug.

An article on European unemployment in the June 11 Monitor listed an incorrect figure for the payment to volunteers participating in medical drug research. The correct payment is ``as much as $1,800.''

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