Merkel says early retirement could tackle EU youth unemployment

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested on Monday the European Union should finance early retirement schemes as a way of combating high youth unemployment.

The EU has earmarked 6 billion euros (5.1 billion pounds) from 2014 to reduce youth unemployment, which has soared in austerity-hit southern states and has hit 59.3 percent in Greece.

Merkel said: "wouldn't it be better to do what we did in Germany, and have an early retirement scheme for a few years?"

Such schemes could be combined with regulations obliging firms to employ younger people, and could be preferable to creating state-financed positions, she said. Just such a programme was criticised in Germany, however, as expensive.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)