The post has been kindly contributed by Paula Goberna who runs the fantastic ‘Find a girl who reads‘. It gives a Spanish perspective on unemployment and opportunities for youth.
In Spain, there is an average of 5 million people unemployed. 57% of the population who is 16-30 years old is unemployed. We are the European country with the most unemployed graduates.
That was the most used word among parents in this country not that long ago. Society encouraged us to do so, too. To study and to get a degree was the key to our future, happiness, dreams, comfortable life, house, car, family, dog, a decent salary, holidays abroad and whatever we wanted. In short, it was the key to our own life. A life that our parents wanted to be better than the one they had and the only way they knew how to get it was helping their kids finishing a career.
It didn’t look that hard, did it? It was something within our reach. Something relatively easy. So we did it. We are the generation with more lawyers, doctors and engineers per square metre but we didn’t get what we were promised and we have now become the generation with more unemployed graduates. We are jobless, we have no future perspective, we still live at our parents’ in our twenties and, if the wind direction doesn’t change soon, some even at the embarrassing age of 30. We have degrees, BDs, PhDs, we can speak different languages, we have any kind of skills an employer may want… and right now, what we don’t have is a future.
How are we supposed to have one when the only jobs offered are poorly paid and never last more than 9-12 months in the best case scenario? How are we supposed to become independent if we don’t make enough money to survive on our own?
I remember when years ago to be what we called mileurista, that’s to say, a person who earns 1000 euro per month, was considered precarious if you were qualified. You could aspire to something bigger. But today, that’s the dream of every single graduate because it would mean to finally be able to break free.
We are called The lost generation. Society pity us and politicians shrug, look at us as if there’s nothing they could do and wait for something to happen that will change this situation. Meanwhile, we, the youth, are on the edge of a black hole of desperation and apathy that drains our motivation and energy daily. It takes a lot of mental stability to avoid be sucked in, plus, a supportive family and friends who must be willing to give you a hand, sometimes the whole arm, if you have tripped over.
As soon as I finished college, the search began.
I sent innumerable CV’s, refreshed obsessively my emails and lived glued to my phone in case someone was willing to give me that longed-for opportunity. Sometimes they agreed to interviewed me but, either I was overqualified or under qualified or I never had enough experience. If the planets aligned, someone would offered me the chance to work for free or, if I was lucky enough, an internship for a risible salary that wouldn’t be over 300-400 euros (I could either buy food and live under a bridge or pay the rent and have an empty fridge) and no intention to turn that into a longer and more stable contract if my performance was good.
In view of this perspective, I decided to keep on studying. And I could do that exclusively thanks to my family. If it wasn’t because of them I would be one of those who doesn’t have the chance to work nor to study and not because they are not willing to. There are more than 2 million homes where none of their members is working and benefits are not enough. University fees increased over the last two years and the Government cut off a great amount of scholarships. Thousands of students were kicked out the university because the recessions hit hard on their families and couldn’t pay that much money. The price I had to pay, compared to that, was petty. I had to left aside only my pursuit of what I think it could have been my dream job and opened another door within my field, law. So far I don’t regret it (at least, I don’t most of the time), and even if it doesn’t assures me a future, it assures me a present. It keeps me motivated and focus on something. It helps me to get up of the bed in the mornings and chases away depression and feelings of uselessness.
I chose to narrate that on the singular form of the first person but I could have chosen any. All of my friends, friends of them, and friends of their friends have experienced this in one way or another. Few of the people I know are working. Of all of them, two have a contract of permanent duration. Only one of them, a law graduate, is earning more than 1000 euros per month. There were people more qualified than him to take on the position, but his father knew someone at the firm, so it was he the one who they chose (that’s how things work around here). The others, will be sacked in a few months. Maybe one of them will be lucky and will have her contract renew after the summer. The rest are still looking.
In times like these when politicians are the only ones who can make a difference, but half of the country, including me, have lost all my faith in politics. The party does not matter anymore, they are the only ones who have the power to change the system but they use it for its own benefits and its wallet’s instead. All of them hide behind the Parliament’s walls and rule the country without seeking popular consensus. They play deaf and blind and decide not to hear and see people complaining and begging to bail out the water that is already neck-high. Instead, they increase taxes, benefit employers making easier to sack workers and promote the creation of precarious work, and on top of that, they look amazed this is not working out…
In a country collapsed by an unemployment rate that keeps increasing each month and where you’re no one without a degree and you’re no one with one, we decide we want to live, not just survive. Is that too much to ask for?
Further reading – My life on benefits
Please do take the chance to have a look at Paula’s blog: ‘Find a girl who reads‘