Europe’s Youth Face No Jobs, No Future

For the first time in the history of modern Europe, youth unemployment in one country, Spain, is above fifty percent. All told, 51.4 percent of young people are unemployed in Spain and 46.6 percent in Greece, 30.7 percent in Portugal, 28 percent in Italy. In Britain, 22 percent of those aged 16 to 24 are without a job: It’s the first time that over one million young people have been unemployed in Britain for the past 15 years.

In comparison, about 18 percent of those 16 to 24 in the US are unemployed.

All told, 16.3 million people in the 17-nation European Union are out of work.

Earlier this week, EU leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos said they would commit 22 billion euros to address the increasingly dire problem of youth unemployment. EU leaders are proposing a plan according to which all young people would be guaranteed work, training or further education within four months of finishing school.

Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, emphasized that youth employment is a problem not only for western nations but all over the world. “If people don’t get the right start it can affect them their whole lives. It is not enough to muddle through. It is not enough to do a fiscal fix,” Zoellick emphasized.

The demands for the EU and financial leaders to do more to address the job crisis has highlighted the EU’s calls for austerity measures even as many others in Europe have called for “kickstart[ing] flagging national economies with extra spending.”

The Lost Generation

The human toll of the economic crisis is painfully, and poignantly, apparent in a Guardian article entitled “Europe’s lost generation: how it feels to be young and struggling in the EU“. Viola Caon interviewed twentysomethings in her hometown of Civita Castellani in Italy. Most have college degrees and none have full-time jobs. Some have traineeships that do not pay expenses; those who have jobs are poorly paid and have no job security. As Caon comments,

Getting a foot on the ladder has never been simple in Italy, where who you know is often key. But with the country facing austerity for the foreseeable future, and eurozone GDP as a whole predicted to shrink by 0.5% in 2012, the outlook is bleak.

The situation in Greece and Spain is even bleaker. In Greece, four out of ten without jobs are aged 16 to 24 and “fears of impending economic collapse and warnings that it may take 10 years before the service-oriented economy even begins to recover have spurred many of the brightest and best to look abroad.” So many young, educated Greeks are now leaving the country for other places in Europe and Australia that people speak of a “brain drain.”

In Spain, twentysomethings are described as both the best-educated generation ever and also the one with the bleakest prosepects:

About a decade ago, a new term was coined to describe young people who earned €1,000 a month – the mileuristas. Now things are so bad that this disparaging term describes an unattainable aspiration for most.

25-year-old Marita Blázquez’s experience is typical:

“I’ve found it impossible to get a job in my own field. In my hometown of Granada, I worked as a monitor in a shopping mall kids’ play area and that’s the closest I’ve got to working with kids, which has been my goal since I started studying. I came to Madrid but all I could get were two part-time jobs, first at a department store and then in a clothes shop, where they hired me as a clerk with an illegal contract making €3 an hour. When I asked for better conditions my boss fired me. I started studying again to become a teacher. But only a few posts are open every year so I have no idea what I am doing next.”

Despite this bleak outlook, some of those interviewed voiced a note of hope. 24-year-old Christos Xeraxoudis, an unemployed chef in Athens, says, despite a months-long job search that has yielded nothing:

“..I am optimistic. Greece needed to change. It needs to be rebuilt from the beginning. It has so much going for it but somehow had lost its way. After all, we had got to the point where we were importing lemons from Argentina.”

Have European leaders acted too late to address rampant youth unemployment? Even while they seek to address the problem now, is too little being done far, far too late?

Related Care2 Coverage

We Ended 2011 with “Strong Economic Growth?” Is it Possible?

From Hospitals to Donkeys: Austerity Cuts Hit Greece Hard

Half Of Spanish And Greek Young Adults Are Unemployed



Photo of a May 15, 2011, demonstration in Madrid by ACido. "No hay pan para tanto chorizo" means "Not enough bread for so much chorizo"; "chorizo" means both a sausage and (in slang) a petty thief.

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Terry V.
Terry V.3 years ago


Silvia G.
Silvia G.3 years ago

Christian R. you said: "My French friend once told me unemployment checks were better then what you'd actually get working at a job", good for your friend if they can do that in France, which I seriously doubt. I currently live in Spain, I am unemployed now, I can tell you what I get for unemployment charity, as you call it, is so little that I would starve to death if my parents couldn't help me and let me live with them. I get 300 € a month, for six months, I couldn't even pay a rent with that amount.

I can assure you all that European leaders are doing nothing at all, they just don't care.

I can't explain clearly enough what it is like to be young and having no prospects, no hopes and having a college degree hanging on the wall, while thinking I will have to go abroad (again) and not coming back, because as I read, we certainly are the lost generation.

Christian R.
c rocklein3 years ago

Doesn't all this unemployment in Europe have a lot to do with all the govt charity to unemployed people? My French friend once told me unemployment checks were better then what you'd actually get working at a job. If this is the case, then maybe socialism is more to blame than capitalism (and corporations). Or maybe the cause is corporations taking their factories to places where labor doesn't cost so much. But what smart business man wouldn't?

Kasia Y.
Kasia Y.3 years ago

There was a comment about the "greedy bankers." Why are these bankers not on death row? We should have international capital punishment for those in leadership postions who cause catastrophe or even death, in this way people like the leadership of Iran and Pakistan and even Canada and the USA under Bush would be finished. Bankers and executive of multinational corporations would have the ultimate deterrent to immoral, criminal, fraudulent, deceitful, and contemptable action. Lets get these bankers out of the business and on the gallows and fill the industry with regulations and governments with people-respecting represnetaives (read that as NOT conservative) to ensure this never happens again.

Kasia Y.
Kasia Y.3 years ago

Looks like the youth may have to take over the continent, and workers take over management of their employers, since the employers do such a horrible job. What I'm looking very forward to is the youth taking over the government. Free access to education, no more parasitic rich people who seek to destroy civilization by funding crap like climate change denial and anti-womans rights. The future looks bright with a revolution on the horizon.

Stephen A.
Stephen Akhurst3 years ago

Thanks greedy bankers for jining my children's future.

richa blue akasha
Rich Blue3 years ago

thanks for sharing

Jay Williamson
Jay w3 years ago

im one of the lucky few in my community to have work i see people here every day fighting for jobs like an animal would for food scraps and because there are so few jobs around its a constant struggle. Its not that they dont want to work its that the work is not available. very sad really that our generation should be facing this ever increasing problem.

Lee Witton
3 years ago

Jeffrey - you are full of shit as a Christmas goose. I had to chuckle as I quickly scanned over your 3 highly intellectual, mortgage lender lingo, but you missed the factual part of just about everything you said. The mortgage lending had nothing to do with trying to help out the poor with bad credit, and the egregious lending practices had everything to do with lack of oversight. It wasn't the left Jeffrey that perpetrated these crimes or facilitated them by assisting then looking the other way; it was Alan Greenspan and his cronies (They are Republicans Jeffrey). The lending practices that were going on in the home mortgage lending business were criminal acts meant for the top 6 banks in the country to make a shit load of money, really fast, and they helped the buyers get into mortgages they couldn't afford by telling them how to fill out their applications to ensure the loan. Now I'm sure Jeffrey, you did a quick check on a site that gave you just enough information to make you think you'd sound like you knew what they hell you are talking about, but, just so you know I know (as well as a hell of a lot of other people here know) you don't have a clue. I'm hoping there will be criminal charges brought against the assholes on Wall Street that are trying to barter their way out of serious legal ramifications.

J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

The US's is so bad, it is hard to fathom the despair in a country where it is so much worse and thus sowing the seeds for revolution.