KAI RYSSDAL: Angela Merkel was sworn in as the Chancellor of Germany again today. It’s her third term running Europe’s biggest economy. Germany’s doing pretty well compared to its neighbors. Take, as just one measure, youth unemployment. It sits at almost 24 percent across the European Union. Less than 8 percent in Germany. This week our man in Europe Stephen Beard is surveying the state of young people without jobs across the continent for a series called Jobless Generation.
STEPHEN BEARD: At a gym in Dusseldorf , in northern Germany a trainer puts an exercise class through its paces. Among the exercisers a young , jobless Spaniard letting off steam…
JOSE MANUEL MORRENO: ( breathless) It helps with the stress of course. A good way to let it out.
BEARD: It helps with stress?
MORRENO: Of course, of course (panting) I’m breathless …I’m sorry
BEARD: Jose Manuel Morreno is a 29-year-old doctor from northern Spain. The intense hour-long exercise routine is one of his ways of coping with unemployment. Among his other strategies: emigrating and learning German. Four and a half hours a day for eight months — here at the Goethe Institute in Dusseldorf — Jose has been getting to grips with one of Europe’s most difficult languages — and handling the hardships of emigration.
MORRENO: It’s not easy. It’s not a piece of cake because you’re leaving a lot of things behind , especially like family and friends . But I don’t regret it. Once you take the step there’s no turning back.
BEARD: At least in Germany — after he’s learned the language — he has the certainty of a job. German hospitals urgently need at least 7,000 doctors. Back home in Spain half of Jose’s age group faces a workless future
MORRENO: If you want to make a living, if you want to progress, be happy — bottom line, it’s sadly it’s going abroad.
BEARD: Increasingly for young unemployed southern Europeans going aboard means coming here to Germany. With its low birth rate, ageing population and relatively buoyant economy, Germany needs young skilled workers.
LENOR VILLA LOBOS: It’s easier to find a job in Germany. It’s probably the best place to find a job in engineering in Europe.
BEARD: 26-year-old Lenor Villa Lobos from Portugal. She graduated as a Geomatics Engineer, spent a year out of work — back home and now she’s also here at the Goethe Institute learning German
LOBOS: I thought maybe I’ll start searching for a job here. Of course, I prefer Portugal but now it’s almost impossible to find a job there or at least a good job where I can be well paid.
(Phone rings. Stefan Brunner answers)
BEARD: In his office at the Dusseldorf branch of Goethe Institute, the affable director Stefan Brunner can see an upside to youth unemployment in southern Europe. The Institute is teaching more German language courses than ever. And — he says — emigration is helping European unity.
STEFAN BRUNNER: It’s very tragic what’s going on in southern Europe but at the same time I think this might be a good chance for the future. If you’re trying to get people in Europe from different countries closer together.
BEARD: But the young southern Europeans making the move and trying to mingle with their northern counterparts have mixed feelings. Jose Manuel Morreno is grateful to Germany but how does he feel about his native Spain.
MORRENO: I feel betrayed. I feel there are no opportunities. There’s nothing for us back in Spain. So yes, I feel betrayed. So do my friends. So do my generation.
BEARD: And 24-year-old Stamatia Konstanta, a qualified dietician from Greece misses the warmth of home, while determined to find work in this cooler northern climate
BEARD: Do you see yourself living all your life here?
STAMATIA KONSTANTA: No I don’t think so ( laughs) I don’t want to live all my life here. They’re not happy.
BEARD: They’re not happy? You think they’re miserable?
KONSTANTA: Maybe it’s the weather ( laughs)
BEARD: Tomorrow I’m heading south…to sunny Spain….where in spite of horrendous levels of unemployment many young people cannot bear to tear themselves away from home. In Dusseldorf, Germany I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.