The new figures show that youth unemployment (under 25) in Spain has risen to a frightening new level: 51,1 percent. To make matters worse, the Spanish economy is expected to contract in 2012 by 1.7 percent. It seems that the only option for a lot of young Spaniards is to move abroad and find a new life out there. And it’s an option that many are considering. A recent survey shows that 68 percent of young people in Spain are willing to move to another country. The enrolments for foreign language classes have been increasing steadily in the last couple of months. Young people are learning new languages to increase their chances of landing a new job somewhere outside of Spain. German is amongst the most popular ones.
Staying in Spain would be the wrong choice for many unemployed Spaniards, since not joining the workforce in your younger years has statistically been proven to affect people negatively in a lot of different factors, including future salary, later unemployment status, overall happiness, and even life expectancy. It is time for this new generation of Spaniards to become mobile and join the labour force abroad, where they can obtain relevant work experience in their field. Figures show that during the crisis, Spain has experienced an increase of 22 percent in the number of nationals leaving their home country. So where are most young Spaniards currently going to?
Germany and Switzerland have seen a significant rise of Spanish immigrants since the start of the economic crisis. For Germany, Greek and Spanish immigrants have fuelled the country’s highest rise in net immigration (280,000) since 1996. In total, official numbers show 90,000 Spaniards living and working in their country. In Switzerland, the number of Spanish nationals has increased by 7 percent to approximately 75,000 people. However, the U.K. appears to have seen the highest rise. The country has experienced an increase of 16.5 percent of their Spanish population, now reaching almost 60,000 people. The United States has also been the destination of many Spaniards looking to find a suitable job. The National Institute of Statics of Spain (INEN) shows an increase of 11 percent of Spanish nationals living and working in the U.S. since 2008, reaching a total of 75,000.
Apart from European countries and the U.S., the South American continent has also proved a popular destination for the Spanish youth, having the advantage of not having to learn a new language. Chile is amongst the countries where most Spaniards come to live and work. Chile has seen their local Spanish population increase by 9.2 percent, reaching a total of 48,000 people. The main reasons that Spaniards have chosen Chile are the country’s political stability, low unemployment rate (6 percent), and a healthy economic growth rate of 6 percent. Similar number of Spaniards are also moving to Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and other South American countries.
The INEN figures show that close to 1.8 million Spanish nationals left Spain to live and work abroad. It appears that many Spaniards, especially the highly educated youth, have accepted that hopes for a good career and a fulfilling life must be sought elsewhere, as Spain finds it hard to deliver on the promises that each parent gave to their child: study hard, work hard, and you will do well. Young Spaniards have done their part; never has there been a generation of Spaniards with such a high level of education. Yet they are forced to move abroad to reap the benefits of such an education.
No doubt many will see all of this in a negative light, since being forced to move abroad to find work might not be what many had envisioned for themselves. Yet, it can also be seen as an opportunity. Imagine what the effect can be of having a solid education, while experiencing living in a foreign country, learning new ways of doing things and enriching oneself by working with people of different cultures. In this day and age, work experience abroad has become a must if one wants to land a top job. The ability to be flexible, and being able to adapt to a different working environment, are skills that are not easily attained. Even though it has been forced upon them, those moving abroad will unintentionally have advantages over people that have only worked in their home country.
Joseph Cavanna, ELM Team