Sun, Apr 06, 2014 - Page 9 News List

Europe’s disaffected youth too tired to riot

Denied their dreams of education and jobs, young people have been sapped of rebellious energy; instead they are turning to more radical ideas

By Costas Lapavitsas and Alex Politaki  /  The Guardian

Conditions are even harsher with regard to work. Youth unemployment in Europe is a little short of 25 percent, already a huge number, while in Greece and Spain it has reached extraordinary figures, in the vicinity of 60 percent.

Collapsing youth employment is clearly not the result of more young people seeking jobs, since the number of young people in Europe as a proportion of the population is declining fast. Youth unemployment is rising because the economies of Europe are failing to generate significant numbers of jobs.

For those under the age of 25, there are no jobs in the southern countries and few decent jobs in the north. Mass youth unemployment is the reality across Europe, and things are far from rosy even in Germany, the supposed winner of the past few years.

The double whammy appears to have sapped the rebellious energy of the young, forcing them to seek greater financial help from parents for housing and daily life. This trend lies at the root of the current paradox of youth in Europe.

There is little extreme poverty, and the young are relatively protected and well-trained, but their labor is not valued, their dreams of education are denied and their independence is restricted.

As a consequence, frustration has grown. Yet it cannot find an outlet in mainstream parties including the left, which strikes many young people as far too timid. Even in Greece, where the official opposition of Syriza — the party of the left — is preparing for government, young people are looking askance at a party that seems unwilling to take radical action.

Matters cannot continue indefinitely along these lines. Frustration is mounting among both young people and their parents.

However, if those who make policy refuse to acknowledge the problem, major change could be delayed for a long time. The result would be a massive accumulation of sullen anger across Europe, with unpredictable outcomes. Those who care for social development had better take notice.

Costas Lapavitsas’ latest book is Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All. Alex Politaki is a journalist.

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