Europe, Globe, Lifestyle, Youth

Youth in Europe: without work, without a future

Thousands of young people in many countries are searching day after day in the hope that they will find a job offer on the market. This has become almost impossible in the wake of the cuts initiated by governments to combat the crisis.

Pablo Osorio Ramírez

With an average of 20.5% of the economically active population out of work, this problem is on its way to becoming endemic throughout the old continent, according to analysts.

The plans that have been devised supposedly to get public finances into shape and reduce the enormous debt, if they do manage to lighten the deficit, are impeding new job creation, especially for graduates of universities and technical institutes.

As experts point out, a surprising statistic is that in countries with a modest general unemployment rate, there is at the same time a high proportion of citizens under the age of 25 out of work.

Italy, the UK and Spain

Italy for example, has a youth employment rate of 29.6%, one of the highest figures in Europe, while its general unemployment rate is 8%, according to recent figures from the statistics agency Eurostat.

Unemployment among young people has hit a record level in that country, with 1,139,000 people under the age of 34 without work.

The worst situation falls in the under-24 social segment, with 29.6% out of work, more than eight points above the European average.

On more than one occasion, the Italian Workers’ Confederation has demanded that the Government use fiscal strategies that would favour earnings made by the middle and lower strata of society in order to keep up internal demand, at the same time bringing into place a system of re-employment for young people.

The United Kingdom, with a general unemployment rate of 10%, at the end of last June reached a figure of 20.4% of people younger than 30 out of work.

This figure is also a record compared with previous years.

Of the nearly 2.5 million unemployed in Europe, 963,000 are young people between 18 and 24 years of age, 12,000 more than the previous quarter, according to official figures.

The Demos Think Tank warned recently about an eventual increase in employment among British youth to about 1.2 million people in the next five years.

According to statistics, the youth sector in the UK is today less likely to find work in professional careers, while at the same time they warn that the Government is not being proactive in protecting that layer of the population against the lack of employment opportunities.

But perhaps the most dramatic situation is to be found in Spain, a country that month after month leads the way for worst ranking European countries in terms of unemployment rates.

With a general unemployment rate of 21% at the end of July, the gap in the Iberian country is getting wider among young people with 45.7% without job opportunities.

Losing faith in the future

The European Commission, in a recent report, affirmed that job creation was still weak due to poor economic conditions on the old continent.

For the Community Executive, figures show that the youth labour market continues to show a worrying trend.

In other words, almost the whole of this social sector in old and cultured Europe has growing reasons to be worried and to look to the future with uncertainty.

The crisis is not over for the issue of youth employment according to Christiane Westphal, coordinator for the Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of the European Commission.

Westphal points out those males have been most affected, due to the fall of activity in some sectors such as construction.

For Luca Scapiello, vice-president of the European Youth Forum, we are looking at the best-trained generation, but which has a lower level of social mobility.

Permanent scars

Such is the case of Portugal, with an unemployment rate of 27%, and where young people could become a lost generation if strategies are not found to stimulate job creation, according to warnings by youth-sector organisations and the trade unions.

Portuguese statistics show that four of every ten unemployed are under 33 years of age and are more highly educated.

The consequences of the crisis are likewise underlined in Ireland, which also has an unemployment rate of 27%, and where many of those affected are

seriously considering the possibility of emigrating as a means of salvation.

The Irish students’ union says that more than 150,000 young people will leave the country within the next five years.

The Central Statistics Office points out that between 2009 and 2010 27,700 Irish people emigrated compared to 18,400 during the previous period.

The situation of young people in Greece deserves separate consideration, as they are also the worst affected in the labour market, with an unemployment rate that has climbed to 40.1%.

Considered by many as the root cause of the debt crisis, the Hellenic country had to resort to two bailouts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, in exchange for drastic budgetary adjustments.

The austerity measures led to a severe freeze in the workforce of state enterprises, among other shock reforms.

According to one of the latest reports from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCDE), recurrent unemployment periods often leave lasting scars on young people. PL

(Translated by: Jose Stovell – Email:

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