Ten years ago the crash of the financial industry, now the corona pandemic: Young Spaniards are threatened with bitter déjà vu on the job market. 

Generation Y

August 12, 2020THE TIME No. 34/2020

Carmen Gómez de Arce has experience with economic crises. When the investment bank Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in September 2008, she was looking for her first job. Before she had studied fashion design in Madrid, now she was hoping for a job in the Spanish textile industry, for example at Inditex, the group behind Zara. After months of searching, she even found something there - but only as a saleswoman at the fashion chain Massimo Dutti, which is also part of Inditex. She had imagined her entry into professional life differently.

Today, twelve years, seven jobs and three changes of location after the bank failure, which shook the global economy, the next crisis has hit the Spaniard. Gómez is now 34. She has a one and a half year old daughter and is looking for work. But this time not because of a collapsed bank. This time a virus cost her the job.

"During my studies I never thought it would turn out like this," says Gómez. But now she is part of a generation of young Spaniards who have been hit by a severe economic crisis for the second time in their working lives. Unlike in Germany, the first one, which had a lot to do with overvalued properties, cost hundreds of thousands of young people in Spain their jobs. At that time, the unemployment rate in Gómez's age group of 20 to 24 year olds rose over several years and reached more than 50 percent in 2013. After that it got better. But now the drama threatens to repeat itself.

390,000 people between the ages of 20 and 34 have lost their jobs in Spain in the past three months, as current figures from the Spanish statistical institute show. Carmen Gómez is just one of them. Your generation wanted to start a stable working life now - in their early to mid-30s. And again faces great uncertainty. Because the extent of the impending economic crisis depends on the difficult to predict corona infection. The industrial countries organization OECD is expecting a decline in gross domestic product in Spain of 11.1 percent compared to 2019. That is almost twice as much as in Germany.

In terms of the labor market, Spain is currently at the bottom of Europe. And it is not the only country that is still feeling the consequences of the financial crisis today. The situation is similar in other southern European countries. In Greece, youth unemployment is still over 30 percent today, although unemployment across all age groups has fallen to 16 percent in the first quarter of this year since the financial crisis. And it shouldn't get any better, on the contrary: The EU Commission expects the unemployment rate in the country to rise again by the end of 2020.

In Italy, the unemployment rate has never been as high as in Greece - the high in 2014 was around 14 percent. According to the OECD, however, it will return to the 2016 level by the end of the year. Four years of recovery would be gone.

Gómez and her partner Isaac de las Heras, a trained pedagogue, reacted to the crisis after the Lehman bankruptcy, as did people around the world in a similar situation: They emigrated. In 2010 they moved to Edinburgh. This made them two of 133,417 Spaniards between the ages of 20 and 34 who emigrated between 2009 and 2014. Like Gómez and de las Heras, 18 percent of them went to Great Britain, around ten percent to Germany.

Gómez was cleaning a Scottish bed and breakfast until she was allowed to go to reception. Your partner washed plates. Then his grandmother got seriously ill - and they returned. "Actually, the plan was to stay in Scotland. Perhaps we would have improved economically then," says Gómez, adding a sigh. But very few stayed long. In Germany, for example, the majority stayed for a maximum of four years.