Europe's Generation-Y, The Next Lost Generation?
Issues that hit hardest are those that hit closest to home. The United States' economy has been on the fence for quite some time now, yet not much attention has been given to the problems our brothers and sisters in Europe are facing. Generation-Y is undoubtedly key to reaching the next step in human evolution; however, such evolution may be stunted if the global economy doesn't get back on the right track — and soon. With unemployment among the youth at an all-time high, young Europeans may very well get left behind and become the world's newest Lost Generation.
The way we believe the world to work is like this: we go to school, work hard and get good grades, graduate from a good college with a 4.0 GPA and then decide which job offer we are to accept. Unfortunately, this is no longer the way that the world works.
Recent college graduates in countries like — but not limited to — Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Latvia and Greece are entering the workforce only to be told that there is no room for them. The European Union estimates over 5 million people, about 23%, under the age of 25 and eligible to work are currently unemployed — without signs of improving in the near future.
This, of course, is only an average — in Spain for example the unemployment rate is just under 30%, as Greece's is reaching 60% and while France's is around 24%. It makes the U.S.'s youth unemployment rate of 16% seem fantastic.
But these are just numbers…once the economies turn around, things will get back on track, right? Well yes, things will begin to look better eventually. However, by the time that such changes are made, it may be too late for Generation-Y. While unemployed, many of Europe's youth will do their best to get jobs that require no college degree and very little skill.
This is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, it is a rather common sight to see a person get stuck at a dead-end job for years upon years simply for either lack of motivation to look for something better, fear of not finding anything better or fear of risking one's comfort. People become accustomed to their work and generally prefer to avoid change whenever possible.
Secondly, if the economic recovery of a country will take years if not decades to come full-circle — which seems like the case for many countries — the youth, recent college graduates, will fall behind. In an age led by technological innovations, not keeping up to date on the newest research and methods can deal a deadly blow. The only option seems to be to work as an intern to make sure that your mind stays well oiled — but internships won't pay the bills and hopes of being hired post internship is slim.
Why would they keep you on when they can hire a new college graduate and keep her on cost free? Which brings me to my next point: soon the youth of Europe will no longer be seen as the youth of Europe. Even if the economies of these countries were to turn around in the next five years, the unemployed will have to fight for positions against more recent college graduates — graduates who are younger and still have the skills they learned in school finely polished.
Many governments, such as that of France, are doing their best to implement government projects that will help the youth get by while the economy continues to struggle. The issue with this is that, for one, these projects are funded by the government — meaning that they are unlikely to be efficient or run properly and are funded by money that the government cannot afford to spend. Also, doing such physical grunt work will not help the unemployed youth in the future when they will — hopefully — begin to look for work again. Roughly 25% of Italy's youth have already been discouraged from looking for any work with numbers sure to rise.
It is sad to see that a large part of Generation-Y is suffering from the mistakes of Generation-X. Generation-Y as a whole is suffering, not being able to benefit from the ideas and innovations that our European brothers would surely bring to the table had they the opportunity to do so. If there is a solution to the problem, the youth of the world is facing, I have yet to hear it.
The way things stand, it does not seem that change is on the horizon. It looks as if the only way Generation-Y will once again flourish is to do so by their own means, creating startups and doing what they can to turn their own situations toward the better. Unfortunately, in most of Europe, it isn't as simple as it is here in the United States. European Generation-Yers may very well have ideas, but no way of implementing them.