Fri, Jul 05, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Hopes and fears of Europe’s highly educated, young jobless

Twentysomethings are missing out on the homes, pensions, independence and confidence that come with steady employment

By Jon Henley  /  The Guardian, THESSALONIKI, Greece, BOLOGNA, Italy, and MALAGA,

Her boyfriend, Daniele Bitetti, also 26, will apply for a doctorate in human geography unless he finds a job soon. The couple, from Puglia, pay 300 euros rent plus bills for their apartment — helped by their parents who send each some 600 euros a month.

“Studying at least makes you feel that you’re not doing nothing,” Melchiorre says. “You do three years, then a couple more, and then — my God, what next? A master’s, a PhD ... and never a job at the end of it.”

Others are simply packing up and leaving: This crisis is seeing young Europeans emigrate in unprecedented numbers. More than 120,000 recently qualified doctors, engineers, information-technology professionals and scientists — half with second degrees — have left Greece since 2010, a University of Thessaloniki study found this year.

“It’s a terrible loss for this country,” says Sofia Papadimitriou, who is applying to study bioinformatics in the Netherlands next year. “It trains all these brains, and they all leave. The government says the future will be different; they will come back. I’m not so sure.”

In previous decades — after the second world war, in the 1960s and 1970s — Italian emigrants were mainly unskilled workers, fleeing a life of poverty. Last year, emigration from Italy jumped 30 percent. Half the leavers were aged 20 to 40, and twice as many as a decade ago had degrees.

In Spain, the employment ministry estimates more than 300,000 people aged under 30 have left the country since the 2008 crash. A further 68 percent more are seriously considering it, according to a European commission study.

Among them is Lucia Parejo-Bravo, 22, leaving Malaga University next month with a business management degree and the firm intention of finding a job in Germany, where she studied for a year.

“Most of my friends have left: to the US, UK, South America, Asia, Scandinavia, Canada,” she says. “Staying here means fighting — I mean really fighting — to find a job. If by a miracle you do get one, it’s 600 euros a month. Or less, if they make you work self-employed. They get away with it because there are just so many of us so desperate for work. Germany won’t be easy, but at least it will be fair.”

Not all are as optimistic as Parejo-Bravo. Spain’s particular problem is that of the 1.8 million Spaniards under 30 looking for a job, more than half are poorly-qualified. Victims of the burst property bubble, they left school to earn 2,000 euros a month or more on construction sites and in building supply firms.

Those jobs have now gone, and will not return for many years. However in the meantime, says David Triguero, 27, at Malaga’s crowded Playa las Acacias with friends, “we bought nice cars. I bought an apartment. Some got married; had kids. My benefits run out in February. I don’t see a future. Nothing.”

Things do not seem quite so bleak for Victor Portillo Sanchez, but he too does not see his future in Spain. At 31, about to finish his doctorate (the EU-funded money has run out), he entertains no hopes of staying in a country “that’s closing research centers it opened only five years ago.”

Portillo too gets by “with the help of my parents, and on my savings. But it doesn’t feel good to be spending your savings at 31.” He has failed to find part-time work teaching, and as a waiter and barman.

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