Sunday, 17 January 2021

UN in your language

Spaniards: emigrants again

harbour_Johannes Jansson_norden_orgIn Spain, images of emigrants with cardboard suitcases who emigrated to America and Europe in the 1960s in search of a job and a better life are well known.

This phenomenon was called the “Spanish Diaspora” and ended with the oil crisis in 1973 and as a result of Spain joining the European Union. Spanish emigrants became a thing of the past.

Spain became a country with an enviable standard of living that no longer produced emigrants, but welcomed them.

Although Spain has never been known for having a low unemployment rate, no one imagined that the current crisis would  result in  5,273,600 unemployed and that  so many of them would be  young people .Youth unemployment now is around 50%,  despite the large number of young people who have emigrated in the last few years.

According to the Spanish press, around 300,000 trained Spanish youth left the country between 2008 and 2011, discouraged by the lack of jobs. Furthermore, recent labour reforms approved by the new Government, allow small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to fire workers without compensation or cause during the first year of employment. The consequence of these reforms is even more precarious and temporary employment. Young people under 25, because of their lack of experience, may be doomed to work for a very low salary or be trapped in a cycle of unpaid internships. Because of cuts in the research field, researchers have been forced to look for employment abroad and Spain faces a real 'brain drain' that will undoubtedly have a long-term impact in the country, socially and economically.

Although this phenomenon has been happening for many years, it has only recently been talked about and considered a problem. This may be because young Spanish people no longer migrate only to Northern European countries, known for their high standard of living, but are also beginning to migrate to Eastern European countries. The Czech newspaper Lidové Noviny, in a recent article, talks of the large increase in the number of young immigrants from Southern Europe to Eastern Europe.

The question is how long it will last? Most young people see it as a temporary situation. They are thinking about working abroad for a few years until “the crisis is over”, or at least until the worst of it is over, and then to come home and find work. However, what awaits them? Some theories claim that the crisis will be followed for a long period of depression that will last for years, during which there will be no significant changes to the unemployment rate, and even then, things will never be good as before. Many of these young people have grown up in families with a standard of living that they themselves will not be able to attain.

Meanwhile, in Spain the Government continues making cuts and young people are leaving in large numbers. Are young Spanish people doomed to unemployment? Time will tell.

Rudi Delarue, Director - EU Office (ILO), on youth unemployment in Europe


  • According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) a large number of youth are engaged in poor quality and low paid jobs, often in the informal economy. In 2008, an estimated 152 million young workers –or nearly 25% of the world’s working poor– were living with their families on less than US$1.25 per person per day  amounting to more than 28% of all young workers in the world (UN)

  • The ILO has warned of a “scarred” generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed countries, as well as persistently high working poverty in the developing world. (ILO)

  • In the first quarter of 2011, the unemployment rate for young people (aged 15 to 24) was 17.4% in the OECD area compared with 7% for adults (aged 25 and over). (OECD)

  • Young women have more difficulty than young men in finding work. The female youth unemployment rate in 2009 stood at 13.2 per cent compared to the male rate of 12.9%. (UN)

  • There are more than 1 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 24 worldwide, and 85% of them live in developing countries. (UN)

  • Youth unemployment stood at 13% globally at the end of 2009, equivalent to 81 million young people. That is an increase of 7.8 million since 2007, prior to the global crisis. (ILO)

  • At the peak of the crisis period in 2009, the global youth unemployment rate saw its largest annual increase on record. The youth unemployment rate rose from 11.8 to 12.7% between 2008 and 2009, marking the largest annual increase over the past 20 years. (ILO)

  • One of the key reasons why unemployment tends to be higher among young people than among adults relates to the existence of “job queues”. As new entrants to the labor market, young people may find themselves at the back of the line for jobs. (UN)