The profound shortage of working opportunities for young people around the globe is the result of the synchronized financial crisis that emerged in the United States and then spread to Europe, generating economic strains.
Nowadays, nearly 27 percent of unemployed Europeans have college degrees, according to European’s General Workers Union. With so many graduates out of work, a degree can sometimes seem a liability, a marker that identifies a job applicant as ill-suited for whatever modest position may be available. Many well-educated young Europeans now maintain two résumés: one that details their full background, for jobs related to their studies, and another that omits a degree or two, so as not to overwhelm potential employers seeking to fill a lower-level job. This situation is assailing the psyches of young people who have been told that education is the pathway to a more prosperous life only to find that their degrees are no antidote to a bleak job market.
Most of European workers are employed in sectors other than those for which they studied, according to the European Workers Union. And this dynamic only appears to reinforce itself: As recent graduates take whatever jobs they can find, they have no way of amassing experience in their chosen fields.
Others are simply giving up on working in their countries. Some disappear from the statistics because they stop actively looking for jobs. Some choose to keep studying.
Large numbers of youth are now emigrating. As an example, since the crisis began, the number of young Spaniards venturing abroad has increased 41 percent, according to the National Institute of Statistics. Germany, France and the United Kingdom continue to be the top destinations for these young workers, but Ecuador is rising in the ranks. The small South American country has offered more than 5,000 jobs to college-educated Spaniards this year.
In many countries, youth employment is understood as a pressing domestic issue. However, the right approach to look at it should be global: From Europe to North America to the Middle East, unemployment among young people has grown into a veritable epidemic, one that threatens economic growth and social stability in dozens of countries for decades to come. Worldwide, some 75 million workers under age 25 were jobless last year, according to the International Labour Office, an increase of more than 4 million compared to 2007.
Are we facing a lost generation? How and when will this situation be fixed?