Economic problems leave young adults in Spain jobless
Cedarville University students have the annual opportunity to study abroad in Spain. During their time there, many of them have witnessed the country’s economic troubles and how they are affecting the Spanish youth.
For most of the past decade, Spain was able to keep its finances in order by running only small deficits, and it often ended up with a surplus. However, Spain was affected by the global financial crisis of 2008, which brought about high unemployment levels, the swelling of deficits and the payment of high interest rates.
Since 2010, investors have been expressing concern over Spain’s ballooning budget deficit. Currently, with the exception of Iceland, Spain has the highest combined budgets and current account deficits of any other country. Further evidence of its economic troubles was that it had a 225 billion euro debt that came due in 2010.
The Spanish government attempted to respond to the economic situation by taking a number of measures. First, in 2009, then Prime Minister José Zapatero and the rest of the government pushed through austerity measures that were to help cut the deficit from 11.2 percent to 6 percent by 2011.
In 2011, Mariano Rajoy became the new Prime Minister, and on Dec. 30 he implemented a new austerity package that consisted of $7.8 billion in tax hikes and $11.5 billion in spending cuts. This move was expected to help keep the budget deficit from expanding.
In January 2012, the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded Spain’s debt by two steps, making it more costly for Spain to pay its debt. By March, Rajoy had made the announcement that Spain could not meet and would be abandoning their deficit reduction targets for 2012. Critics said this failure would only exacerbate the economic woes of a country already facing unemployment above 20 percent and a recession.
These factors are a leading contributor to the high rates of unemployment that exist amongst the young adults of Spain. An article from The Associated Press in February said that roughly half of Spaniards 16-24 years old are jobless. This is the highest number of unemployed young people among the 17 nations currently part of the euro monetary system.
Spanish youth are being labeled as the “Lost Generation” because they have no work right now and few prospects for the future. They have also been dubbed the “ni-ni generation,” which in Spanish means “neither-nor.” This is because many of them are neither in full-time jobs nor attending school full time.
Those who have part-time jobs are often not able to retain them for more than six to seven months. The AP article shares the story of Daniel Lorente, who is 21 and has held a variety of part-time jobs such as being a doorman and a telemarketing representative.
But none of them lasted for very long, and he is looking toward a dead-end future. “How am I going to make it if I don’t have a steady job to pay a mortgage, for example,” Lorente said.
And many of the part-time jobs that are available are low paying and have few hours. Twenty-three-year-old university student Segundo Gonzalez told AP he has only had offers for menial jobs that don’t pay well.
This situation has prompted many young people to choose to leave Spain and seek job opportunities elsewhere in Europe. According to AP, a bank worker in Spain earns only 18,000 euro ($24,000) while in Switzerland a bank worker earns 60,000 euro ($80,000). Those who do leave are also taking jobs below their qualification level, such as bartending or working in hotels, because they can make more and support themselves better.
BBC reporter Matthew Price confirmed this trend when he went to Madrid’s Complutense University to interview students about to graduate. He published his results in an October 2011 article.
When asked if any of them were confident about getting a job, no one raised their hand, but when asked if they could find a job outside the country all hands were raised. This trend is sparking fears that Spain will become a country that suffers from a youth brain drain unless this situation can be reversed by Spain resolving some of its economic issues.
The economic woes that Spain and its young people are facing do not only affect the business world, but they also affect how lifestyle choices are made. For example, many Spaniards are choosing to live at home with their parents longer and are waiting longer to get married and have children. Lorente currently lives with his mother and unemployed 28-year-old sister and thinks Spain’s economy is so bad that he does not anticipate being able to move out until he is 40.
Abigail Eustace, a senior at Cedarville, spent time in Seville, Spain, in 2010 and learned ow the economy was affecting personal choices through the friendships she developed.
She observed that many of her friends still lived with their families even though they themselves were in their late 20s or early 30s. Abraham was a chemistry graduate student she got to know, and, instead of living on his own and providing for his a family of his own, he was still living with his.
“Even though I am 28 and want to get married someday, I can’t imagine doing that anytime soon,” Abraham said.
Many of these factors have prompted the Spanish youth to action, and they have taken a variety of measures to express their opinions to the Spanish government. Last summer, many of them banded together and led protests in cities all across Spain. One component of these protests was that they took over many of the central plaza areas and set up camps.
Over this past summer I was studying for a month in Valencia, Spain, and I witnessed the actions the youth were taking. About twice a week they would march around various parts of the city in a big procession in protest against the government’s austerity measures.
These protestors set up a camp in La Plaza Ayuntamiento, which is in the central part of the city, so I passed by them frequently. There were many times I would walk by and someone would be addressing the huge crowds gathered explaining what the government needed to do to help ease the economic situation.