As the European financial crisis drags on and on, one has to ask the question, how long can young European’s wait for things to improve in their countries? The crisis has affected youngsters greatly, with less work prospects and opportunities to be found after university. On 2nd April, Eurostat published the most recent unemployment statistics which showed some worrying signs; not only has unemployment reached its highest levels in 15 years, but also it is showing no signs of improving, with more jobs expected to be lost this year in countries such as Spain and Portugal due to the lack of growth in many European economies where austere measures have been imposed without including policies promoting growth in the economy. Currently, 22.4% of Europeans aged between 16 and 25 are out of work, although this figure rises sharply in countries such has Spain and Greece, were the crisis has had a devastating effect on employment. Since 2008, youth unemployment in Spain has tripled due to the collapse of the construction industry. The increasing unemployment is bringing new trends in immigration throughout Europe. Whilst only a few years ago Europeans were moving abroad for new experiences and to learn languages, more and more European youths are emigrating out of necessity and due to desperation to find work.
The crisis has brought to a halt the dreams of many Europeans, particularly in the southern states. The European youth, who have had the most investment in education, have grown up taking for granted job opportunities and careers after gaining a university degree. However, opportunities to find work are difficult, even though many hold good degrees and masters. Youth unemployment has already hit over 50% in Greece and Spain, and around a third of young Irish people are unemployed. There is no real short term solution for the many unemployed in these countries. Whilst one answer is to go back to college or university to study, many find themselves overqualified for the jobs that do exist, and in some cases, a master reduces their chances of finding work. This is leading to what the Spanish press are calling a ‘brain drain’, as many young Europeans have been left with no choice but to look for opportunities outside of their countries. In 2011, 50 000 Irish people left to find work in other countries and this exodus is expected to rise in 2012, with the most popular destinations for them being Australia and the U.K.
Many young Europeans are making the painful decision of leaving the continent for opportunities as far away as Australia or Latin America, where the crisis has not been as profound, and the employment situation is healthier. However, there is a European solution for this employment crisis. Whilst the southern European states are suffering high levels of unemployment, the situation in northern Europe seems to be improving. In general, unemployment in Austria, Germany and Holland is improving, with German unemployment at a record low at 5.7% and youth unemployment at 8.2%. The freedom of movement for citizens in the European Union has facilitated immigration between member states, and is offering more possibilities to the millions of unemployed. Since the crisis started, more and more Europeans between the age of 18 and 26 are moving to neighbouring states to gain experience or find work in the profession that they have trained for. Whilst some are moving over for a short period to improve their language skills for example, others are leaving their countries with a one way ticket, looking to build their lives in a country which offers them work and a good wage. Emigration offers young Europeans a chance to gain experience and improve their C.V’s whilst also earning money.
Emigrating is certainly on the mind of many who are struggling to find work. There are many opportunities within Europe for people to find work in a range of professions. For prospective teachers, a language teaching assistant job in another country allows the person to gain experience in the classroom whilst also improving their language skills. The British Council runs programmes for British students to teach in many European countries, whilst other Europeans can come to the U.K to teach their native languages in schools. For other professions, EURES allows Europeans to look for work across the continent and to upload their C.V. Normally for these programmes an existing knowledge of the language is required, although this could be acquired through an intensive course.
For those looking for permanent work, there are companies throughout Europe which are looking for skilled graduates to take up roles outside of their countries. Germany has a shortage of skilled labourers, and in August 2011, Angela Merkel announced that Germany was actively seeking 200,000 immigrants to come and work in German industries. German companies are searching for talent from other European countries to resolve the problem. In April, the German engineering company Rücker AG advertised 500 positions for workers from Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. The company offer a two month language course for those who have a low level of German and a very competitive wage. With a shortage of Engineers, Germany has become a particularly popular destination for recent graduates. It is now up to other companies to take this lead and try to help in combatting the high rates of unemployment throughout the European Union.
There is no short term solution for the countries which are suffering high youth unemployment; opportunities for young people in the southern European states look bleak. Whilst there is a lot of rhetoric about tackling this problem, there have been no concrete policies to improve the situation. Freedom of movement within the European Union invites citizens to move country without too many complications. Instead of staying in their respective countries, now is the time for the younger generation to take advantage of the opportunities within Europe, whether that is a full time job, or to learn a new language and use this difficult period as a time to enhance their C.V. Throughout Europe there are vacancies, and whilst there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, more and more youngsters are on the move. In the first three months of 2012, 27,000 Spaniards already left in search of a future elsewhere. The biggest problem is for the countries whose graduates are emigrating; these countries will not see a return from the investment made in their education, or receive their taxes which go towards funding the welfare state. Also, after settling down in another country, how likely is it that these emigrants will ever return? The choice to leave a home country may be difficult, but currently it’s the only option.