What can be done about youth unemployment in Europe?

So, what can be done about the problem of youth unemployment? It’s a massive problem with no clear solutions, and this is party the reason why it has already escalated to such worrying heights. Understandably, individual European governments have not got money to throw at the problem. It is therefore necessary to think outside the box, and suggest alternatives like becoming freelancer writers or journalists. Clearly, there are downsides to this too – job instability and lack of previous work to name a couple – and certain governments don’t make this a particularly easy path for young people to take. In Spain, amongst other countries, freelance workers are required to pay a certain amount of money to the government per month for the privilege of not working for a company. This means that for many, especially those just starting to work, freelancing is not a viable option as they do not make enough profit once they have paid their fee to the government. Another option for young people looking to go down a less conventional route is in start-up companies – either working for one, or creating their own. This too can have its disadvantages, but no job is completely perfect. Start-ups can become very successful with some hard work and an innovative idea, and investment can come from private companies both in their home country and abroad. The added benefit is of course that start-ups can employ more people once they start to grow. In the mean time, however, governments should focus on keeping young people in school for as long as possible, so that they leave with decent qualifications and have various options open when deciding what to do with their future.

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(PS – sorry for the cheesy photo (which is from http://www.transmitpromo.com))

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Why is youth unemployment in Europe such a big problem?

Although the statistics vary in every European country, one thing is undeniable: something needs to be done about youth unemployment as soon as possible. Spain is one of the worst affected countries, with over 50% of 15-24 year olds currently out of work. This is a completely surreal statistic when you really think about it, and with many friends in Barcelona and Madrid, it’s a very real problem for a lot of people I know. It’s unrealistic to blame governments for every problem a country faces, but in Europe as a whole, the issue of youth unemployment does not seem to be at the forefront of politicians’ minds.

Youth unemployment can have massive consequences for a country – in both long- and short-term ways. In Spain at the moment, there is concern that the current generation of young people aged 15-24 will become known as the ‘generación perdida’, or the ‘lost generation’. Many of those who fall into this age category will never have a real ‘career’ in one field, as companies are reluctant to offer anything more than short-term contracts, and the proportion of young people who work over-qualified is worrying. Recently, a particularly worrying trend has come to light: young people leaving Bachelor’s degrees off their CVs when applying for jobs such as bartending, so that their future employer does not think it is just a holding job until something better comes along. Something is seriously wrong when people are actually downplaying their achievements just to earn some money. This age group is also now living at home for much longer, often until the age of 30, and they are therefore less independent. There rates of school dropout have also increased due to the economic crisis – when young people see that working hard and getting good grades just leads to unemployment, many think it’s not worth continuing with their education until the age of 18. This is something governments really need to address, as this is clearly one of the roots of the problem. There is also a certain amount of disillusionment with the education system – government cuts mean that teachers have bigger classes and are therefore able to devote less attention to each pupil.

It’s also not just us who are affected by youth unemployment – it is unlikely that the current youth of Europe will be able to support their parents financially in their retirement, as they will not have had stable savings throughout their adult lives.

The ‘brain drain’ is also a phenomenon that has seen in an unsurprising increase in the past few years, in Spain in particular, as the country has been hit especially hard in the area of scientific research. Due to a lack of funding, Spanish research centres have stopped employing so many scientists and engineers, and these young people choose to go to countries like Germany, where work is more readily available. However, this can have serious consequences for the countries from which the young professionals flee – in the future, when the crisis is over, there will be a large sector of top scientists missing, and those who leave are unlikely to return to Spain. It’s not just scientific research which is affected – the majority of my Spanish friends who are planning on becoming bankers, doctors and journalists want to study and then work in the UK or in America.

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A short history of the European flag

The official flag of Europe’s main purpose is to represent the continent of Europe (obviously), and it is also used to indicate Eurozone countries. It was designed in 1955 by Arsène Heitz and Paul Lévy with the intention of becoming the symbol for the Council of Europe. Heitz came up with the initial idea for the 12 yellow stars on a dark blue background, and the design was later finalised by Lévy – both worked for the Council of Europe.

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Despite the many rumours, there isn’t really any significance in the number of stars on the flag – when it was being created, there were argument over having a star for each member country of the Council of Europe, but then there were more arguments about the number of member ‘countries’. One rather interesting rumour is that the number of stars is inspired by the Virgin Mary’s star halo described in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. The authorities at the European Union have said all the rumours linking this with the flag are just myths, but they’re interesting nonetheless. The official European flag has even inspired the flags of newer countries like Kosovo (below left) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (below right), where the European Union has had a lot of involvement.

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12 hrs… A New Obsession

My latest travel-related obsession is the website http://www.12hrs.net, which basically offers you a selection of itineraries for when you’ve got 12 hours to spend in a European city (they do/ are starting to do cities outside of Europe too, but this is the EUROphiles). Not only are you saving money by not buying a travel guide (although if you are going to do that, check out this post), but the suggestions are unusual and generally things only a local would know about. In the creators’ own words:

We love to travel. We also love design, and music, and fashion. And we were missing a website full of travel tips for people like us. Somewhere between the backpackers and the luxury hotels. With tips that aren’t about money, but about great discoveries from all around the world. So we built 12hrs. To keep it simple, we organized them in itineraries. 12 hours per trip. Sweet and short. With the best to see, do, eat, dance we could fit in one short stay.

Living in London, it was encouraging to see that many of the suggestions (including Dover St Market and Borough Market) are places that I’d take friends who are visiting me to – hopefully this means that I’d like the places suggested in other cities… The site’s tagline is what really speaks to me – the suggestions are “collected by us, for you, from locals, friends, and fellow travellers”. The touristic places are always easy to find, especially in big European cities used to visitors who don’t speak their language, so sites like this are so useful for finding the really special places, the places that might just make your trip. My number one place to visit this year is Copenhagen… It looks amazing, judging by the photo below.

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What’s going on in Ukraine?

As is being widely reported in international news, Ukraine is currently in turmoil. It’s always important to know what’s going on in the world / your continent, even if it doesn’t directly affect you, but the national news doesn’t always explain situations clearly, and if they are as fast moving as Kiev right now, it can quickly become impenetrable. The BBC‘s article “Why is Ukraine in turmoil?” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25182823) breaks it down simply.

In basic terms, President Viktor Yanukovych‘s government has favoured stronger ties with Russia over becoming closer to the European Union. Ukraine is not currently a  member of the European Union, although there has been a long-lasting desire to integrate. Peaceful protests in the centre of Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, have since turned very violent, with the latest figures estimating 100 deaths since the violence broke out. The situation is ever-changing, so follow bbc.co.uk or cnn.com for the latest information.

     

Tate to Tate – London

One of my favourite cheap things to do in London when friends are visiting is to do ‘Tate to Tate‘, as I have recently named it. This involves (obviously) visiting both Tates – Britain and Modern – in the space of an afternoon. It’s made very easy: you just take the river boat which goes direct from Tate Modern to Tate Britain (or the other way round) for a small fee. Even though it’s not completely free, it’s worth remembering that unlike in most other European countries, you don’t pay to get into either museum. There are exhibitions which you need to buy tickets for, but if it’s not something you really want to see, it’s not always worth paying for, & you can spend a perfectly busy afternoon in the free parts…

Prices from http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-boat

  • Adults – £6.50 single, £12 return
  • Tate Members – £4.90
  • Child under 16 with Travelcard – £2.15
  • Travelcard holder or London Student Card Single £4.30
  • Children under 5 travel for free