When I was reading about the origins of the recent Arab revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, I was shocked to discover that the protests were sparked, among other things, by the self-inmolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year old street vendor who grew so tired of high unemployment and harassement from Tunisian authorities that he took his own life.
The Tunisian situation is similar to the circumstances that Spanish youth are also facing: high unemployment and the difficulty of pursuing their dreams. Spain’s youth unemployment rates are double that of the EU (41.5% compared to 20.2%), a situation which has created a lost and desperate generation which experts have dubbed: Generation Twixter, Generation Ni-Ni (i.e. neither-nor), and Generation JASP (i.e. overeducated youth). Whatever the name, Spain is living through its deepest recession since the Spanish Civil War, over 70 years ago, and unemployment does not seem to be getting better.
In Spain, Generation Y's parents were the main benefactors of the country's democratic transition in 1975, of our entrance into the European Union in 1986, and of our continued economic development (In less than 30 years of democracy, Spain has exceeded the EU's average in terms of average wealth per capita). These experiences have shaped the way we percieve our future. We thought we would be more wealthy than our parents, as they were more wealthy than their parents. Our parents always told us, “If you study, you’ll succeed."
While that was the case for them, not so for us. They should have said, “Even if you study, you won’t have a job." At this rate, current events will force us to face the opposite situation of our parents: a decline of our social position relative to our parents.
Generation JASP is comprised of motivated young people who have finished their undergrad and/or (sometimes multiple) Masters degrees, travelled abroad to learn different languages, and still cannot find a job; not just their preferred job, but any kind of job altogether. Since they cannot afford rent, it’s impossible for most of them to live on their own or with their significant others. The situation is so bad that in order to get a job, some young people even make themselves look less smart on their resumes, figuring that since employers are more likely to hire less educated people who don't demand high salaries.
Political parties have tried to appeal to young people by emphasizing this problem. The Popular Party (conservative, right-wing party) criticizes the ruling party, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), insisting that this situation did not exist while they were in power. On the other hand, the PSOE has tried to make last minute labour reforms that reduce workers’ rights (for wich European workers have been struggling during the past decades).
The situation has gotten so extreme that Germany's Angela Merkel has offered to recruit qualified young Spaniards to work in Germany as a possible way out. But, this is just a temporal measure that will not solve the problem and does not give Spanish youth the hope we need.
Photo Credit: agnesgtr