Europe's youth stack up the degrees to shun the dole

Article published on Oct. 22, 2009
Article published on Oct. 22, 2009
With one out of five under-25s job-hunting in Europe, many opt to continue studying as long as it takes to avoid signing up on the dole. Diverse realities of a generation in the middle of the crisis

Eurostat statistics reveal that 18.2% of under-25s in Europe were unemployed in August 2009. Spain’s unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 39%, followed in second and third place by Latvia (28.2%) and Italy (24.9%), with 19% in France,19% in Britain and 10.8% in Germany - almost half of the European Union average, alongside Austria, Denmark and Switzerland. In this varied context, many European students do their utmost to delay entering the job market, whilst racking up as many degrees as possible.

María Martínez, 25, BA graduate, still a student Spain youth unemployment rate: 39% fears lack of stability

María Martínez Bueno is Spanish. At 25, she is afraid of instability and hopes that the government will protect her. She has been studying for five years and keeps on ‘collecting’ degrees: she spent three years getting a degree in ‘labour relations’ (Relaciones Laborales) and two more years to qualify in ‘labour sciences’ (Ciencias del Trabajo). Now, like many other Spaniards, she hopes to be accepted to do an MA in ‘secondary education’ (Educación secundaria). Of course, María already has some work experience. She worked for two years as a labour manager (gestora laboral) but it was an experience that she found less than satisfactory: she had to work the whole day, her salary was very low and above all, she knew that she would be never given a long-term contract. María believes that the only solution for her is to get the much desired job of being a high school teacher. ‘Being a state employee is the only way to feel secure at your workplace and work according to a schedule which I’d like,’ she explains.

René Bayer, 20, student Germany youth unemployment rate: 10.8% 'the crisis will be over by graduation time'

According to 20-year-old economics student René Bayer, it took far too long for German students to graduate before the Bologna process. Now, he is happy that you can get the same degree in a much shorter period of time. Yet he still has four years before his own graduation, and thus believes that the crisis is not going to have any direct influence on him by then, ‘even though there’s plenty of competition with the number of other students doing economics around me.’ He will have a chance to settle down anywhere in the world, he says. Some people complain that with the new system it is quite hard to get any profound knowledge on certain subjects, but it’s not an issue for René: ‘I like the idea of doing intellectual work and earning money for it,' he finishes. 'The earlier you start, the better; that is why I am at university.’

Yann, 24, BA graduate, still a student France youth unemployment rate: 19% studies because of 'social pressure' and for 'prestige'

Yann has only one aim in life: to enjoy what he is doing. He has spent the last six years between Grenoble and Lyon at the Grenoble institute of political studies, then he completed an MA in cultural and institutional communication. He has just started his second masters in the management of artistic careers. He explains that despite the Bologna reforms, there is a certain particularity in the form of the system of the grandes écoles (the elite specialist universities) in France, where prestige is a highly important factor. Over the course of his studies he has done three different internships, but he has not started looking for a long-term job yet. He hopes that his degrees will not let him down because they are all well-recognised. He did his best to obtain these prestigious degrees because, like many young people, he wants to try to earn his living by making music for a few years - he is aware that there is an uncertain source of income. His degrees work as a permanent backup for him when he opts for finding some kind of permanent job. ‘I stuck with all these years at university not really because of their content but because of the social pressure and ‘success’ it brought. I decided to continue only because of the eventual degree title I would get. However, I must admit that my second masters is much more specific and interesting; it is far more oriented towards a particular profession than the previous ones.’