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Young Immigrant Workers Unlikely to Move Back to Southern Europe


FILE - Malika Etchekopar-Etchart, unemployed, holds a blackboard with the word "chomage" (unemployment), the most important election issue for her, as she poses for Reuters in Chartres, France.


Young people who left Southern European countries to find work in Europe’s North are unlikely to move back home anytime soon.

Thousands of young people moved north after an economic crisis hit their countries a few years ago. Unemployment rates in countries such as Spain, Greece, and Italy remain high -- between 25 and 45 percent.

Roberta D’amore left her home in Italy in 2010. After completing her university education, it took her months to find a full-time job. Yet the job paid her only 500 euros a month. It provided no health care or other work-related benefits, like employer donations to a retirement plan.

D’amore now works for an employment agency in Luxembourg. She has no plans to move back to Italy anytime soon.

“Every time I go back the situation is worse when it comes to work opportunities,” she said. “It makes me sad that my country is not able to offer the young generation to start a life. If the situation would improve I could at least think about opportunities and go back.”

Many of the unemployed youth from southern Europe move to major economies like Britain and Germany. Others go to smaller countries like the Netherlands and Belgium.

Portuguese software engineer Jorge Lima says he moved to England because of the language.

“There was little work in Portugal in my field and the work projects I get to work on here are much more interesting," he said. "Also the salary is more than twice as much. Most of my friends from Portugal have moved away to find better jobs.”

Pedestrians read recruitment announcements in central London October 15, 2008. British unemployment shot up at its fastest pace since the early 1990s recession this summer and experts are predicting even bigger rises ahead as the financial crisis takes it
Pedestrians read recruitment announcements in central London October 15, 2008. British unemployment shot up at its fastest pace since the early 1990s recession this summer and experts are predicting even bigger rises ahead as the financial crisis takes it

Forced movement?

Only three percent of Europeans live in a European Union (EU) member state different from their country of birth. Studies suggest the main reason is language barriers.

For years, the EU has tried to ease restrictions on movement, but many young people going north feel their mobility is forced. More than four-million European youth were unemployed in 2016.

A program called the EU Youth Guarantee was established to help Europeans under the age of 25 with employment and education. Yet a new report says the program “falls short of the initial expectations raised.”

The Court of Auditors reported the findings.

Matthias Busse works as a researcher at the Center for European Policy Studies. He says the Youth Guarantee had a good effect. But he believes the total number of unemployed youth remains too large.

The European Youth Forum works with the EU and policymakers in support of young people on issues such as employment. The forum represents 100 youth organizations. They like the idea of the Youth Guarantee. But they also believe that more financial aid and less government involvement is needed to make such programs successful.

Seeking reform

Allan Pall of the European Youth Forum says the current situation could lead to what he calls a lost generation if no reforms are made.

“We see that young people are more likely to work in precarious jobs, unpaid, or zero-hour contracts or sometimes not even having contracts,” Pall said. “We are now seeing that countries like the United Kingdom and Greece have legitimized paying young people below the minimum wage, just because they are young.”

One Spanish job seeker in Brussels spoke with VOA, but asked that his name not be identified in this report. He feels Belgian businesses are more likely to offer employment to the country’s citizens than foreigners.

The college graduate says he faces several issues, such as how to negotiate in his new cultural environment and not being able to speak the local language.

He feels that even if he cannot find a job within his field, he will stay in Belgium.

“This is something that I discussed with my family before coming here, there is a chance I don’t find anything,” he says. “But it’s more worth it to being a Belgian waiter with a better salary and better conditions than being one at home. And that is a very sad thing to say.”

The Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Belgium assisted hundreds of Spanish people looking for work in Belgium and surrounding countries in recent years. Almost all were under 35 years old and 85 percent of them have a university education.

Ramon Lopez of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce says it will be difficult to get these young people to return home.

“In Spain, there were many qualified people for few jobs so the wages were quite low,” Lopez said. “When the people from Spain come here (Belgium), they are just happy with having a fair salary.”

He adds the loss of educated, skilled youth means that the government now has to use public money to interest them in returning home.

I’m Lucija Millonig.

Marthe Van Der Wolf reported on this story for VOA News. George Grow adapted her report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

benefitn. something that produces good effects; financial help; a service provided by an employer in addition to wages

opportunity – n. a good chance for progress or forward movement

salary – n. a fixed payment for services; wages

initialadj. of or related to the beginning of something

precariousadj. depending on the will or decision of another

contractn. a business agreement

minimumadj. the least amount of something; the lowest number

graduate – n. someone who has successfully completed a study program

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