Kelvinwright's Blog

postmodern thoughts

Spain’s Lost Generation

When Hemmingway and the original Lost Generation authors wrote about the decade after the end of The Great War, they would have had little knowledge that a century later Europe would again be facing economic woes, this time not from the devastation of a war, but from great debt.

In Spain, where I have been since 2005, the effects of the postmodern depression are worse than perhaps anywhere. The only thing keeping Spain and its Government out of the headlines is Greece. Youth unemployment is at close to 50% – one in two people between the ages of 16 and 24 years is out of work, relying on parents and grandparents to survive. Official unemployment figures are at 21%. The immigrants that arrived in droves to build the new Spain across the coasts and on the outskirts of cities are as active as the deserted construction sites on which they once worked. This is Spain in 2011, and despite constant Government claims that the crisis has finally bottomed out and reached the worst, the opposite is the case. The queues at unemployment offices are growing and the presence of beggars on Spain’s streets, at traffic lights, on the Metro and on commuter trains is increasing. These are the images of Spain’s lost generation – images that eight years ago would have been unthinkable.

When asked what kind of job they want when they graduate, Spain’s youth will answer, “Any job!” Many now believe that they will need to leave Spain to find work, but not anybody can take this choice. A large number of Spaniards still do not speak other languages – only the best and most qualified will leave; the very people that with careful investment and opportunities aimed at young entrepreneurs could be capable of lifting the country from the floor.

Spanish unemployment is the highest in Europe, so much for what was eight years ago the growth economy. And that unemployment level continues to rise at an alarming rate. When the unemployment figures for September were released yesterday they showed that the number of people registered as looking for work increased by another 100,000 in September alone, representing the largest increase in that month for fifteen years. The Government has blamed the latest increase on regional cutbacks.

Youth unemployment is high right across Europe, but the continental average is low by Spanish standards as just one in five.

Many people are forced to study, just to be able to take an internship later, low pay, with no labour contract, and after one or two years, back to square one. Either that, or accept continuous temporary contracts, where they are available, with low pay. Spain’s lost generation will be paying for the debt situation for years to come, long into when the current youth are themselves parents. If the new Lost Generation currently has to be financed by their parents, then who will fund them, their welfare system, and their future pensions when they themselves are the parents?

This is Spain’s lost generation, and they could be right out a novel by John Steinbeck. But this is not in 1930’s depression era American, it’s 2011 Spain.

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October 5, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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