Young workers: Cuts hit Spain's young hardest

  • 30 September 2012
  • From the section Business
Media captionThe Spanish government has predicted that debt levels will rise as much as 90.5% of the country's total wealth in 2013

Thousands of young people have taken to the streets of Madrid in recent days.

In a country with record levels of unemployment, and a government programme of deep austerity, Tom Burridge looks at how Spain's young are being hardest hit during the economic crisis.

At a demonstration near the Spanish parliament in Madrid I met 23-year-old Manuel and his girlfriend Ana Sercuenda. The next day they were moving to London in search of work.

"We are the future," said Manuel, "but there are no jobs for young people here."

With unemployment in Spain now at 25%, droves of young people are thinking about moving abroad or have already left.

Image caption Permanent jobs are "a thing of the past" says psychiatrist Anna Romaguera

The Spanish economy is expected to contract by as much as 1.7% this year, and few businesses are employing new people.

However the government in Spain is committed to a programme of deep spending cuts and austerity, which means there are almost no new jobs in the public sector.

"The government wants to reduce the public sector," says sociologist Adolfo de Luxan.

"They don't want to lay people off, so instead they are not contracting new people, and they are not contracting anyone."

Lower wages

The Spanish government is hoping to make savings of 62bn euros ($79.7bn; £49.5bn) this year and 40bn euros in 2013.

Every government budget has been cut, including the amount spent on Spain's public health system.

Regional governments administer healthcare, but the money comes from the central government in Madrid.

Catalonia, the most indebted region in Spain, has already made significant cuts to spending on health, including reductions in salaries for doctors and other health professionals.

A study by a Barcelona-based association for Catalan Doctors, found that last year only 65% of junior doctors who qualified in a particular speciality in May had found a job by November.

Perhaps more strikingly 80% of the 600 doctors surveyed who had found work were on temporary contracts and many were earning salaries as low as 1,500 euros (£1,200) a month.

Anna Romaguera, 29, is a psychiatrist in the Catalan town of Granollers.

She is currently on a temporary contract, which ends this month.

She believes permanent, well-paid jobs in the health system, are now "a thing of the past".

"Because of the crisis, being a doctor in Spain is a less attractive career. You have to work more for less money, and of course the patient is also affected."

Finding a job

Aida Gutierrez has just started her sixth and final year studying medicine at Madrid's biggest university.

Afterwards she hopes to spend four years at a public hospital, as a junior doctor, before hopefully qualifying in her chosen speciality.

She says she knows other young doctors who qualified, but have now gone abroad, because they could not find work in their speciality in Spain.

"I'm worried about not finding anything in my speciality. It is really difficult to study and work for 10 years and then not be able to find anything."

If, when she qualifies in her speciality in four years' time, she cannot find the right job, she says she will also consider moving abroad.

As the Spanish state shrinks in size, fewer private businesses are benefiting from public money.

Sociologist Adolfo Luxan uses the analogy of roads: "It is not only that they are not building new roads; they are not repairing old ones. So the companies who do this work have less jobs, and so they have no jobs for young people."

Figures from Spain's office for national statistics show that 40,000 Spanish people moved abroad in the first half of this year - representing an increase of 44% on the same period last year.

And although the statistics do not include a breakdown of people's ages, a large proportion will be the young, and some in Spain now worry about a "lost generation".