For young Spaniards it is too rare to have a good job. They are a different generation than their parents in many ways, some chosen and others welcomed, but when their complaints are heard it is easy to find a root: the lucky young people want better jobs and the unemployed young people would want any one. Talking about your problems is talking about unemployment, low wages and short contracts.
1. In Spain, younger people do not usually have a job, contrary to what happens in many countries. Only 20% of young people aged 15 to 24 have a job of some kind, compared to 31% in the European Union and far from richer countries, such as Sweden (39%), Germany (48%) or the United Kingdom (51%).
Between 2004 and 2008, when Spain achieved its best employment figures, young people with work were 30% and up to 40%. But the number collapsed with the subsequent economic crisis and has fallen again with the pandemic.
The differences by countries will have many causes. One part may be cultural, or related to vocational training or the ease of doing internships. But youth unemployment is also a reflection of the lack of jobs in general. A sign of this are young people who neither study nor work: Spain has 14% of ninis between 15 and 24 years, one of the worst figures in the EU, only better than Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Italy, according to Eurostat. In addition, there are also many young people who would like a job, to combine it with their studies, but cannot find it.
2. The lack of work continues with the twentysomethings, whether they have studies or not. If we jump a decade with our statistics, we find that young people between 25 and 29 years old are still with low activity.
Spain only has employment figures in the European average for young people with basic studies (53% of whom work). The problem is that that number does not improve enough because of studying. Only 59% of Spaniards with high school studies or intermediate vocational training are working, compared to 72%, which is the average for the European Union and far from the Netherlands or Germany (83%).
The same goes for college students. 70% of Spaniards aged 25 to 29 who finished university or have a postgraduate degree have a job, compared to 79% in the EU. Only two countries have a worse figure than the Spanish one, two other countries in the south that were badly hit by the last crisis and with similar problems, Italy (55%) and Greece (63%). At the opposite extreme are the Netherlands (90%), Lithuania (89%), Romania (87%), Finland (87%) or Germany (86%).
This lack of work is the first labor market problem faced by young people. The second is precariousness.
3. In Spain young people with work are still at risk of being poor. It is the clearest proof of the precariousness of employment, because it is absent or because it sometimes offers low wages.
Spain is the third country with the most workers aged 16-24 at risk of poverty (20%) and the second with the highest risk for workers aged 25-29 (16%). However, as we saw last week, this situation is less common for older workers: at 55-64 years the percentage at risk is 9%, in the European average, and for people who work beyond 65 years is lower (7%).
It is useful to think of people aged 25 to 29 in Spain. In that group, there is 23% unemployment. But also, as we have just seen, among those who do work there are 16% who continue to have low incomes. Your family income, taking into account the people in your household, is less than 60% of the median. They are young people who work, but perhaps their partner is unemployed; who have a young child or care for an older parent; young people who only have a contract for a few months a year, or who work a few hours a week and would like more.
4. Spain has records of ultra-temporality. In our country, precariousness often has an explanation behind it: the number of contracts with an expiration date. Spain has more temporary employment than almost any country in Europe, for young people and in general. And that has consequences. Workers earn less money because they alternate stages unemployed and working; they have more difficulty planning and less incentive to specialize.
A limit case of temporality is what Eurostat calls “precarious work”, contracts of less than three months duration. As the graph shows, these ultra-temporary jobs are more frequent in Spain than in almost any country. It is especially striking how common they are for educated people: in Spain 7% of workers with a university degree have a job for weeks, twice as much as in the EU and more than in almost any other country.
5. Rich part time, poor part time. The last sign of precariousness is found in workers with short hours. It is a formula that divides European countries: in wealthy places it is often a sign of flexibility, a chosen luxury, while in places like Spain, it seems more like an unwanted consequence of a lack of work.
Spain is the second country in the European Union where more young people work part-time because they cannot find full-time work. At the same time, we are among the countries where fewer people have a short shift to study or for personal and family reasons other than caring for someone who is sick. That part-time, let’s say desired, is rare in Italy (2%) and Spain (3%), but very common in more prosperous countries, such as Austria (10%), the Netherlands (11%), Germany (13%). ) and Denmark (16%).
In other words, in Spain there are many young people who work little although they would like to work more; and others in the opposite situation, with a job of long hours that they would like to make more compatible with other things in their life. Although the first is more serious, they are two signs of precariousness.