Clear underdogs in finding work
SPAIN:WHEN CAMINO Quirós (24) finished a master’s degree in June, she seemed well-qualified to start a career as a psychologist. But after graduating she discovered there were no vacancies, and so this month set up her own clinic in her home town of León, Spain.
“I saw this as the only way out,” she says. “The jobs market is terrible, above all for young people, and the vast majority of people I studied with are unemployed.”
Spain’s overall unemployment rate stands at 25 per cent – the highest in Europe. But with a youth jobless rate of 53 per cent, young people such as Camino are the clear underdogs when it comes to finding work.
Since the end of 2007, when Spain’s decade-long property boom was ending, the number of young people out of work has doubled to 900,000. But Spain’s slump isn’t the only culprit behind youth unemployment. The structure of the jobs market also plays a part. Employment contracts are divided into two very different groups: “permanent” ones, guaranteeing high security, good pay, plenty of holidays and perks; and “temporary” ones, offering none of the above.
Competition is intense among young people for work, particularly for skilled, vocational jobs. As a result it is common for them to be given temporary contracts, under whose terms it is easy and cheap for employers to fire them should costs need to be cut.
“It’s not like in the old days, when a lack of education caused social inequality,” says Saúl Pérez of the JOC, a Catholic youth labour organisation. “That’s not the case these days. Most young people are well educated.”
Young people who do find work rarely expect to earn much more than €1,000 per month. About 40,000 Spaniards emigrated in the first half of 2012, according to the National Statistics Institute, many of them young people seeking opportunities in countries such as Germany, France and the UK and even Latin America. Spain hasn’t seen such an exodus since thousands fled the oppression of the Franco dictatorship in the 1960s.
Street protests have surfaced over the last 18 months led by the indignados, a mainly but not exclusively youth-based social movement.
“The indignados managed to draw attention to the problems ,” says Luis Miguel, an economist at Madrid’s Rey Juan Carlos University. “But they haven’t converted that into concrete improvements for young people.”
This is underlined by the latest Bloomberg survey forecasting Spain’s overall jobless rate will rise further next year, to 26 per cent.