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Youth unemployment in Spain still high despite reform efforts

Pepe Bada has a degree in marketing but was laid off in the summer. He desperatelywants to find another job.

KAI RYSSDAL: There was a rare bit of good economic news for Spain today. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said labour reforms the government pushed through this year have helped create 25,000 new jobs a month. Some Spaniards, though, aren't celebrating. In the southern parts of the country, unemployment tops 74 percent. Our man Stephen Beard has been reporting on Europe's unemployed young people this week in a series called Jobless GenerationToday he's in Seville.

STEPHEN BEARD: A horse and carriage clatters through a square, lined with orange trees. In the warm winter sun a tour guide shows off the centerpiece of this beautiful and historic city.

(sound from tour guide: "This is the cathedral of Seville..inside we find the tomb of Christopher Columbus the one who discovered America for the Spanish crown...")

BEARD: Inside this vast, magnificent cathedral, the tomb presents a contradiction. The world's most famous explorer -- buried in what's now one of the less adventurous parts of Spain. Emigration from this region is relatively low. Even though youth unemployment is sky high. (sounds of Maria Marin...) Maria Marin, 21 years old and unemployed. She says it would be really hard leaving Spain in spite of having little hope of getting a job in Andalusia. Gayle Allard of the IE business school in Madrid understands Maria's reluctance: 

GAYLE ALLARD: Language skills are not very strong in this country and as you go south that situation gets worse. So I can't imagine that it would be easy for Andalusians to go outside the country and find work. 

BEARD: There is some work in Andalusia, but not much of the highly skilled, well paid variety.

(drilling and sawing metal sounds)

BEARD: This workshop trains young people for good jobs in aircraft assembly. Airbus makes a military transport plane in this region. But they hire barely a thousand new staff every year, not making much of a dent in the unemployment figures. Idoia Saez runs this training facility. She says many young Andalusians have given up and are reverting to the kind of unskilled farm work they used to shun.

SAEZ : You can find there Spanish people picking up fruit or picking up olives...

BEARD: Would you have young people with degrees prepared to pick up olives?

SAEZ: I know particular people who have a really big degree and they';re working on the streets, picking up all the rubbish.

BEARD: To Americans it will seem incredible that educated kids would rather languish in a menial job or depend on welfare than look for work abroad.
But the gravitational pull of Andalusia is very powerful. It's not just poor anguage skills keeping young people at home. I've come to the outskirts of Seville to see a young man -- unemployed -- in his 30's -- who speaks fairly good English but is aghast at the thought of emigrating.

(sound of a door opening)

BEARD: Hi, Pepe? Hi, Pleased to meet you. Pleased to meet you too. Come this way. Pepe Bada has a degree in marketing and a history of hard work. Laid off in the summer, he desperately wants to find another job. But here at home. Not in the colder, more frenetic working environment of northern Europe.

BADA: It's a relaxed way of life here. Because in the south of Spain we live outside, because of the weather. You have to enjoy the weather.

BEARD: And Pepe cannot bear the thought of swapping Seville for some grim and cheerless town further north

BADA: To exchange our beautiful city with this culture and heritage to an awful ugly industrial city…I don't think so! (laughs)

BEARD: Pepe has a working wife and two small children. The family income has more than halved since he lost his job...but even that is not enough to get him to budge from his beloved south

PEPE: I prefer to have a simple life here, to live simply here than to go to another place. 

BEARD: Like hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men and women in southern Europe, Pepe can rely on the help and support of his parents and family. But in Italy -- where I'm headed next -- there are those who blame some youth unemployment on the family. In Seville, southern Spain, 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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I found Steven Beard's attitude about the reluctance of some young Spaniards to leave for Germany seeking a job to be very condescending. If one doesn't even speak German, why would you uproot yourself from an truly splendid cultural city like Seville to leave for the chance to pound the pavement in a northern industrial city where you may not know a soul. Germans and Brits are constantly flooding into Spain on holiday to find relief from where they live, and they do this for very good reasons. Spain is lovely. You only live once and there are other reasons to live besides maintaining a bank account. If I were in Seville I would stay there. Spain's economy is going to recover.

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