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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 June 2016
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 JUNE 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Record number of job cuts causes anxiety in Europe Major companies announce an avalanche of redundancies across Europe, as lay-offs on the continent hit a seven-year high VANGELIS TSONOS The assault on the European working class in 2016 continues, amid worrying signs that the world economy is closing in on another major collapse like the one triggered by the 2008 Wall Street crash. Massive sell-offs in the stock markets since the beginning of the year, a slowdown of growth in China and freefalling prices in oil and other basic commodities have driven some of the world's biggest companies to announce devastating job cuts in their European departments, in an effort to achieve huge cost savings for the forthcoming years. And with Germany's export-driven economy showing vulnerability and southern European economies remaining plagued by high unemployment and very weak consumer demand, austerity-hit Europe is facing many critical dilemmas. Just last week Microsoft announced more job cuts to its struggling smartphone business; the company said it would lay off 1,850 workers in the coming months, mainly in Finland. The company bought Nokia's once world-beating handset business for a staggering US$7.2b in 2013, but disappointing sales led to huge operating losses in 2015, with 7,800 staffers losing their jobs last year. Nokia also plans to trim the company's workforce by 14 per cent by the end of 2018, cutting jobs across the globe in an effort to save more than US$1b annually, following its merger with fellow networking giant Alcatel. In 2000 Nokia employed 24,000 in Finland alone, as it dominated the market for mobile phones; after yearly reduction programs, the number has dropped to a little under 7,000 this year. And the buck doesn't stop there - in the face of falling oil prices, Shell has said it will cut at least another 2,200 jobs, mostly in England and Ireland. The oil giant saw profits crash from US$19b in 2014 to just US$3.8b last year, with 10,500 people (roughly 10 per cent of the company's workers) being laid off in less than 18 months and more expected to go in the coming months after the company's takeover by BG Group in February. Shell's arch rival BP also saw profits slump by 50 per cent to US$5.9b last year and promptly announced plans to cut 7,000 jobs worldwide by the end of 2017, 3,000 more than the comapany were expecting to shed just two months ago. Ford also plans 'hundreds' of job cuts in their European operations. Jim Farley, Ford's boss in Europe, the Middle East and Africa recently stated that the company would begin a voluntary redundancy program aimed at “supporting a significant reduction in administrative and selling costs”. Ford employs more than 10,000 employees in Europe, mainly in Germany and the UK, and at least 10 per cent of its personnel is expected to be gone by the end of the year, as it aims to reduce operating costs by at least US$200m per year until 2018. US multinational General Electric also wielded the axe in its European facilities. Recently the company announced plans to axe 6,500 jobs in Europe by the end of 2017, including 1,700 jobs in Germany, 600 in the UK, 800 in France and 1,300 in Switzerland, all part of a plan to garner US$3b in cost savings until 2020. Overseas layoffs by US companies accelerated in April, with the number of European casualties seeing a 35 per cent increase from March and a shocking 262 per cent climb from March 2015, sending year-todate job cuts to the highest level since 2009. The retail sector is suffering from low demand, computer companies are shifting strategies and shutting down entire departments with a single swing of the sword, while US Bank Citi, in a recent report titled 'Digital Disruption', forecasts that European banks will shed at least one million jobs by 2025, as new technology enables them to do more online or via mobile as “the future of branches in banking is about focusing on advisory and consultation rather that transactions”, as per the report, which also states that “around 65 per cent of banks' staff are doing processing work that could be automated in the long term”. So should European workers just close their eyes and wait for the inevitable? Absolutely not. For every sector that folds, there's another area of expertise that lacks skilled professionals in many regions and a series of emerging job prospects for those who show the required adaptability and who make the right move at the right time. But with multinational giants shaving off tens of thousands of European jobs each month, the European workforce is certainly feeling the pinch.
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