What opportunity for young people?

2 min
Barricades at the crossroads of Aragón and Bailén Street

Youth unemployment is an endemic problem of the Spanish economy. Also in Catalonia, of course. It is one of the highest in the euro zone. With the covid crisis it has shot up again, as it could not be otherwise: right now it is at 27% between the ages of 16 and 29, but 38% between 16 and 24, when overall unemployment is 13.9%. Moreover, we come from a financial crisis, which in 2013 skewered the figure to 50%. The State's economic model is based on low-skilled jobs, with construction and tourism as the main drivers. Changing this paradigm is the only way to break a dynamic that does not generate stimuli to achieve a high educational and technical level, either through university studies or vocational training degrees. In fact, where there is a more evident deficit is in vocational training, which, despite attempts to link it to industry, does not function with the quality and scope that would be necessary. The result, then, is that the youth population continues to be the main victim of a system that, on the whole, gives them few job opportunities and, when they do exist, they are of a low salary level. Low salaries are a drama.

If we add to this the very serious problem of the access to housing, with prices well above the average young person's purchasing power, and a pandemic that has aggravated the feeling of isolation and oblivion, we already have a perfectly defined problem: the young people of our country have no prospect of being able to build, especially from the economic point of view, a vital autonomy. "I don't want to have to share a flat until I'm 40", they tell us. And it is not only this, but they feel expelled from the welfare and progress that their parents' generation was able to achieve, while they see how the climate crisis endangers global survival and how Spanish democracy shows clear symptoms of degradation of fundamental freedoms. All this is a scenery that must be described as frustrating, to say the least.

That is why we should not be surprised that the political and social disaffection of an important part of young people is such a visible fact today. In some cases it pushes them to civic commitment, in others to a visceral reaction that is not exempt from violent outbreaks, and there is also the option of fleeing abroad in search of better work and life opportunities. In any case, we are facing a generational problem that is mortgaging not only those affected, but society as a whole. If the best are leaving and those who remain are mostly settled in despair, it is difficult to find reasons for collective optimism for the coming decades.

The way out must involve working to increase the demands and quality of the education system without forgetting equity of access, and a swift conversion of the economic model to base it, precisely, on good training. And all this, of course, accompanied by an ambitious public housing policy. There is much to be done. And it is urgent to get down to it.