News / Europe

Economic Crisis Hits Spain's Youth

Al Pessin
With Spain's economic downturn entering its fifth year, the country's young people find themselves bearing a disproportionate share of the burden.  Overall unemployment is 25 percent, unemployment among Spaniards under 30 years of age is 50 percent.

First-year biology students at Madrid's Autonomous University are among the lucky ones, or so they thought.  They are some of the 30 percent of Spanish youths who go to university.  But with the long recession, they are worried that their degrees will not help them get jobs, even four years from now.

"When the crisis hit they cut funding for scientific research a lot," noted biology student Isola.  "So I am sure I will have to go to another country to do research or whatever because here there is no guaranteed work in scientific investigation."    

It would likely not make them feel any better to meet Sylvana Fernandez, 27, a woman with two business degrees, who that same day was having her first experience in an unemployment line.

"While I was studying, they told us it was a very good career [move] to have, a double degree, and that we would find jobs very easily," said Fernandez.  "And it was not like that.  When we went out it was really difficult to find a job.  We are not able to have a normal life of a 27-year-old boy or girl."

Fernandez had some temporary jobs after she graduated, just as the economic crisis was starting.  But even those have disappeared.  Like many Spanish professionals, she is thinking of leaving the country.

"Here I see that I do not have many opportunities and that my friends are also like me, so that worries me a lot," Fernandez added.  "It is not only me, it is everybody."

Experts say that is particularly unfortunate, because educated workers will be what Spain needs to rebuild its economy.  And millions of less-educated Spaniards will need to upgrade their skills so they can work in services or high-technology industries.  But that is a long and uncertain process that could leave Spain with a generation of discouraged workers, says Analyst Guntram Wolff.

"We are talking here about a lost generation, I mean the people between 20 and 30, they are essentially without a job, 50 percent are without a job," Wolff explained.  "And we know this is a life experience that marks you for your entire life."

Some young people who do not yet have to worry about getting jobs are trying to help those affected by the crisis.  These students from an expensive private high school volunteer at a food distribution center.

"In your life, normally, you ... live with people who have money, who can pay everything, and here are people who came here to... to have a breakfast.  It is an experience that I think every person should live," said Carmen Duque.

More and more Spanish young people are living the experience of economic hard times, one way or another.

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