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Youth fleeing Europe to find jobs

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28 2012 10:20 a.m. MDT

People take part on a protest during the May Day rally in the center of Madrid, Tuesday, May 1, 2012. Tens of thousands of workers marked May Day in European cities Tuesday with a mix of anger and gloom over austerity measures imposed by leaders trying to contain the eurozone's intractable debt crisis. Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is trying desperately to cut a bloated deficit, restore investor confidence in Spain's public finances, lower the 24.4 jobless rate and fend off fears it will join Greece, Ireland and Portugal in needing a bailout.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza, AP

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They are educated and smart and they are fleeing their countries — not from persecution or war, but from the lack of jobs.

Alan Clendenning from the Associated Press begins a story (part of a series of articles) about how Europe's young are pursuing the dreams abroad: "Santiago Oviedo, a lanky 24-year-old from Madrid, is on track to get his master's in physics in October — a crucial milestone in his dream of becoming a researcher probing the origins of the universe.

"Spain won't benefit from his big brain.

"Because of education spending cuts and Spain's downward economic spiral, Oviedo is planning to emigrate to Britain, France, the Netherlands or Germany to get his Ph.D. or work at a company that lets him do research. He's afraid he may never work or raise a family in his country."

In a story by Miles Johnson in the Financial Times, Spaniard Laura Frieyro talks about how joblessness has affected some of her friends: "I know people who now just sit at home all day, watching TV, depressed. It is absurd to have someone who is 27 or 28 living like that."

Der Spiegel explains the problems in Italy: "The latest figures are indeed unsettling. Young people in Italy are not seen as a resource, but as a burden. The unemployment rate among young people under the age of 25 hovered for a long time around 20 percent. Now, it's shot up to 36 percent."

The Globe and Mail reports that in the U.K., there are "1 million unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds, or 21.9 percent of the workforce in that age group — a shade below the eurozone average."

This compares with youth unemployment in the U.S. where, according to the Globe and Mail, it "now sits at 16 percent after recently peaking at 19 percent."

In Spain, however, things are much worse. The AP says, "Spaniards in their late teens, 20s and early 30s leaving the country has increased 52 percent — from about 12,500 to nearly 20,000, according to the government statistics agency."

The Christian Science Monitor says the number of people leaving Spain (almost 62,500 people in 2011) should be taken with a grain of salt. "It is difficult to track migratory movements, especially within a borderless European Union," the Monitor reported.

"I think (calling it a) brain drain is an exaggeration," Joaquín Arango, a migration expert and a sociology professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, told the Monitor. "It's significant, though, because it shows a trend."

Gayle Allard, an economics professor at Spain's IE Business School, however, told the Monitor, "I'd say this is more of a brain train, than a brain drain," he said. "As long as they come back, and knowing Spain, they probably will, I don't think it's a tragedy."

The Globe and Mail says 50 percent and higher unemployment rates in countries like Greece and Spain "sound like a horribly high figure, but as Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Francis Fong pointed out in a report Tuesday, other metrics paint a picture of a less dire, if still challenging, job market."

Unemployment figures always look at the number of people who want a job who are not able to find a job. But Fong says if people look at the "youth unemployment ratio," or the number of jobless youth compared with the total number of youth — including all the youth in school or who don't want a job (or have become too discouraged to look for work), the numbers are only "15 percent in Greece and 20 percent in Spain."

Even so, Fong told the Globe and Mail, employment ratios have more than doubled in just last four years.

In Greece, BBC reports, unemployment benefits are only available to people who have contributed to the national insurance. "(A)nd since many young people have never had a job, they are not entitled to any financial support," BBC says. "Even those who do receive the monthly payments of 360 euros (£300) see them stop after one year. After that, unemployed people in Greece are on their own, without access to financial support or free health care."

The U.K. is trying paying employers to hire young people, the Globe and Mail reports, by offering up to £2,275 ($3,570 U.S.) in wage incentives.

The result of young people not having jobs for long periods of time can be long lasting according to the BBC. It is called the "unemployment scar."

"People in their 20s … will end up feeling useless," Nick Maltoutzis told BBC, "and then it's very difficult to change the psychology."

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com TWITTER: @degroote FACEBOOK: facebook.com/madegroote

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