Monday, June 10, 2013

Youth sans Hope

I'm often asked how bad the unemployment situation in Spain really is - what is life like in an economic crisis? 

I have to say that I can't answer the question very well. I have anecdotal evidence from friends who talk about the difficulties of finding employment and how family members (brothers, cousins, uncles) are moving in because they've lost their jobs. I've noticed the soup kitchen line seems to have gotten longer in the past few months. I'm familiar with the statistics - 27% unemployment and 57% youth unemployment. But the truth is, I live in a world where the majority of my foreign friends are students or teachers and all my Spanish friends work.

However, an experience I had today gave me a bit more insight into what the situation is like. On my way home from work, I stopped to talk to three different NGO canvassers. You know the type - they stop you with a smile, ask if you have a minute and then set out to try to guilt you into donating or paying for a membership for a well-known organization like UNICEF, Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Red Cross, etc. Maybe some other day I'll share my opinions on how, although these operations are highly effective, I feel they are exploitative of both the organizations' images and of the idealistic youth who make almost nothing to pretty much beg on the streets.

Anyway, I stopped to talk to each canvasser and learned a little about each over the course of our conversations. Each had not only a degree but a master's degree. Each seemed very well-spoken and intelligent. And each made it clear that they were dirt poor and they had no other opportunity but to do this to make money. In the US, these canvassers are usually idealistic recent college grads and the turnover rate is high as most move on to more permanent forms of employment.

It's unclear what these overqualified young Spaniards can move on to. That lack of hope is both terrifying and sad.