Many of Europe's unemployed youth are relocating to the UK, but is that a good idea?

Thousands of students take part in a demonstration in downtown Rome on October 7, 2011 to protest youth unemployment and cuts to education budgets. While the U.S. continues to see optimistic job gains, the situation in Europe is not looking so hopeful. The worst affected group by far are the young.

KAI RYSSDAL: This week we've been taking a closer look at the crisis of youth unemployment in southern Europe. In some countries like Greece more than half the 18 to 24 year olds are jobless. One solution is to relocate. And the UK is an obvious destination… with its fast-recovering economy and its flexible labor market. But Britain is not proving the El Dorado that many young southern Europeans hoped. In the last of our series: Generation Jobless, Stephen Beard reports from London

STEPHEN BEARD: There was a time - about 400 years ago - when a boatload of Spaniards bobbing up and down on the Thames would have caused absolute panic in the British capital. Not any more, of course. This is a floating Spanish-owned pub, not part of an Armada, but part of a friendly Spanish invasion. On board - watching a Spanish soccer match on satellite T.V - are some of the tens of thousands of unemployed young Spaniards who've come to London to find work -- and a good time. Jorge Ruiz runs a Spanish language blog in Britain.

JORGE RUIZ: London is always popular. It's always a place to be, a cool place to spend a few months. It's a really fun city. When I first came really it was amazing.

BEARD: He reckons more than 100,000 Spanish people have to come London since the crisis began. Daniela de Rosa runs an Italian consulting firm in the city. She says every month 3,000 of her fellow countrymen and women have also been arriving here.

DANIELA DE ROSA: They are many, too many maybe and they're not only Italian coming here . There are Greeks, the Spaniards and so on. There are the Chinese, the Indians, the whole world! There are opportunities. Many opportunites but not for everyone.

BEARD: 25 year old Javier Duque from Spain knows that only too well. He has a degree in communications and wants a job in marketing. But for the last one and a half years he's worked in a menial job in the kitchen of this fast-food restaurant 

JAVIER DUQUE: As the time went by I started to think: what am I doing here? I don't belong here. I'm a little bit fed up. Actually I'm really fed up! 

BEARD: Javier knows that the best way to get a better job is to improve his English. But that's not easy when your girlfriend is Lithuanian, your flatmates are Polish, all your colleagues are foreigners, and you don't even meet English people going to and from work

DUQUE: When you get on a bus most of the time you don't hear anyone speaking English. You hear many different languages but not English.

BEARD: You've come to the wrong city if you want to learn English!

JAVIER : Yeah.

BEARD: Many of the south Europeans -- like half of all young British graduates -- have wound up doing jobs for which they are overqualified. In some cases comically overqualified. Mariano Cruz from southern Spain has a degree in philosophy. He's now in London working in the warehouse of a chain of sex shops.

MARIANO CRUZ : You're picking dildos, you're picking condoms, that kind of thing (laughs)

BEARD: What do your Mum and Dad think about this back in Spain?

CRUZ : Well, I didn't tell them the whole truth. (laughs) I didn't tell them the whole truth. 

BEARD: And from northern Italy 27-year-old Marta Gambron has been forced to earn her living making salads for restaurants in London. She can't find full time work as a graphic designer here, even though she has a degree and experience in the field.

MARTA GAMBRON: I'm not happy, you know?

BEARD: You're not happy?

GAMBRON: No, no. Not totally happy. I'm not doing what I want to do in my life.

BEARD: But Marta -- who's been in London for a year -- wouldn't dream of heading back to unemployment in Italy.

GAMBRON: London is a wonderful city. It's amazing. You can feel free. You can be what you want to be.

BEARD: But you can't be a graphic designer?

GAMBRON: Not yet. I hope in the future. If you keep trying you can realize your dreams and you can be what you want to be in your life, here.

(sounds of music from the bar)

BEARD: In London's expat European bars, Spaniards, Italians and many others still enjoy the welcome this incredibly cosmopolitian city provides. But they can't take it for granted. The government here is now talking about caps on the number of Europeans allowed in. London may not always be a source of hope -- and an escape route -- for Europe's young unemployed. In London, I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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