Jobs crisis: Europe's great migration

Spain unemployed in line at job centre, Madrid, 4 Jun 13 Spain wants EU partners to help ease its crippling unemployment problem

Later this week Europe's leaders will gather in Brussels on a mission to fight unemployment. They have identified the 26 million out of work as a threat to the European Union.

Recently the French President, Francois Hollande, warned of hatred and anger, with people turning their backs on the European project. The president of the European Investment Bank, Werner Hoyer, spoke of unemployment undermining the trust of a whole generation.

Whilst Europe debates how jobs are created, tens of thousands of young Europeans are on the move in search of work. They are part of a great migration.

For many, Germany is the land of opportunity and jobs. In 2012, 45,000 Italians moved to Germany. The Spanish were not far behind, with 37,000 heading in the same direction; 35,000 Greeks also left for Germany.

Germany needs these migrants. The Association of German Engineers says it wants 70,000 engineers immediately. When scientists and IT specialists are included, the figure goes up to 200,000.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is laying out the welcome mat. Not only does Germany need these skills, but she believes migration will go some way to alleviating Europe's unemployment. She says that the young and unemployed should be prepared to move to find work.

Unemployment rates

  • Greece - 27%
  • Spain - 26.8%
  • Portugal - 17.8%
  • Cyprus - 15.6%
  • Rep of Ireland - 13.5%
  • Italy - 12%
  • France - 11%
  • EU average - 11%
  • UK - 7.7%
  • Germany - 5.4%

Source: Eurostat, April 2013 (Figures for Greece & UK are for February 2013)

Mrs Merkel is influenced by her own experience, coming from the former communist East Germany. "I had 30% youth unemployment in my own constituency (in the east)," she told the BBC. "I know that many young people from my region only had jobs because they moved to the south."

So Germany is investing 1bn euros (£848m; $1.3bn) in funding apprenticeships for young people in places like Spain and Portugal to help them find work in Germany.

Brain drain

It is, however, often the best and brightest who are emigrating. In the year up to April 2012, 87,000 people left Ireland. Many moved to Australia and New Zealand. Most of them had achieved high levels of education.

Only this week, I stood outside the Angolan consulate in the Portuguese capital Lisbon.

By 08:00 in the morning, 150 people were waiting in line. Tens of thousands of Portuguese are seeking work in places like Angola and Mozambique, countries which were former colonies. Once again it is engineers and those with specialist skills who are gambling on a different future outside Europe.

Some may return. Many will not. The fear is of a brain drain which will leave some of these southern European countries stagnating. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Spanish graduates have already left a country where unemployment is heading towards 28%.

So Europe's leaders this week will try and bring forward a 6bn-euro youth guarantee scheme to help young people who are without work. Even though programmes at the European level may help, most jobs are created by small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) which want easier access to credit and less European regulation.

In the meantime, with unemployment still rising in southern Europe, many young people are on the move - a great migration in search of work, with unpredictable consequences for the countries they leave behind.

Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Could the migration be seen as unusual? It seems that people are following a timeless interest in opportunity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Since our own governments approach to our borders is so pathetic maybe the EU for all its faults will wake up and deal with the unending influx of the worlds economic migrants.
    If it does not then we will eventually return to the europe of 1945 but this battle will be fought on the streets of each nation.
    Our politicians toy with the future stability of Europe to tick forced diversity boxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    55.An Over Populated Planet
    I findamentally disagree with that socialist organisation. I asked you what your solutions were, do they include brutal tactics as used in China?

    That's rather xenophobic. Being able to move is a natural right.
    See @47, 38 for solutions.

    Voted up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    @51 Sally -

    There was a time when there was sufficient for all.

    We have gone badly wrong.

    With respect may I guide you to the following site at the risk of this comment being deleted:


    Deny or otherwise, the planet cannot sustain our current numbers !!!

    We need to use the space between our ears such that all have quality of life.

    I do not regard that as impossible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    The leaders of these governments are the only ones that are a threat to the European Union, and until they realise the error of their ways, things will only get worse. . .

    My gran taught me, that when theres an issue. . . . . always look to yourself first, and if you and your decisions have been wrong, take the flack and put it right. If you can't put it right, get out and let someone else do it

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Gavin again does not consider the UK as part of Europe ?

    ´Britain's Young People Spend 2.3 Years Unemployed, Shock OECD Report Says´

    --and that with almost energy independence and without Euro?

    -- But with a strong profitable banking industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    We have to allow unlimited free movement of people from other European nations to the UK but why the UK is still allowing immigration from outside the EU aswell when we have 2.5m unemployed.Its the economics of the madhouse.Message to the privileged elite train up our own young people you selfish greedy chancers & stop all immigration from outside the EU at least give our own a chance

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    46.An Over Populated
    Are you blaming people for having children, just because central planners are lousy at allocating resources? What is your solution, increased central planning? Force people to only have 1 child? Forced sterilisation?

    Only freedom, markets, can allocate resources efficiently.

    Why do you think poorer nations have more children than developed ones?

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Migrating should be a crime. People should be kept in their own lands. Then if companies needed work doing they can open a workplace where there are unemployed people. All migrants greedily grasping jobs, houses, a 'life' out of other people's lands should be sent back. Those places should train their own to fill jobs they have. All free movement must cease in the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Every time European politicians come up with schemes to address youth unemployment the number of unemployed young people tends to go up.

    Protectionist measures won't work. They need to free up business not shroud it in more meaningless regulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I am amazed how many people still see the EU as a collection of countries
    Why amazed?

    It IS a collection of countries. All different, dozens of languages and cultures, disparate standards of living, etc.

    What amazes me is why a very few people still think a collection of countries can work as one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    We're no where near full. I said: without a welfare state, anyone arriving will only be able to sustain themselves by providing a good or service that we value and reward them for. Otherwise, they'll move on to leech of a society that does reward sloth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    @ 42 Sally -

    Never in the history of humanity on this planet are so many suffering as there are now .....

    THAT IS NOT PROGRESS !!! however you look at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    'Recently the French President, Francois Hollande, warned of hatred and anger, with people turning their backs on the European project.' - It would help if the 'European project' had the decency to listen to the populace that voted them in. They plough on towards some european pipe-dream regardless of what the people want; that will only lead to discord, extremism, and violence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    #38 and what happens when the uk is full up like it is now...then what...?why have we got low paid unskilled migrants claiming tax does that help us?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    It is a case of 'If the mountain won't come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain'. Unfortunately it is the mountain that must move if the unemployment problem is to be resolved within the EU. A significant proportion of German industry would need to relocate from Germany, perhaps through EU incentives, along with successful German employment laws which could be adopted within the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    41.An Over Populated Planet
    Over population is not a problem. The more free a society is, the more adaptable it is. Hong Kong is a veritable rock, with no natural resources, and a population density many times greater than China or India.

    As we improve farming techniques (and develop GM foods), we produce more nutrition per acre than if we were left to hunter gather methods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The elephant in the room:


    2+ BILLION souls will try to rest tonight without work, hungry, without adequate shelter, in need of medical assistance or all four !!!

    The most pressing issue facing humanity needs to be talked about; ( as a fist step).

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I am amazed how many people still see the EU as a collection of countries (us and them). A single market 300million people, ethnic and regional distinctions. a degree of standardisation of laws + regulation is a necessity, skilled + educated people will always relocate. central government reallocates funding to support weak areas - happens in every country / market place. Utopia does not exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    This isn't news. My niece in Ireland has made it plain that she will be leaving because, as she says, "the country has no future". She blames the Dail and the EU.

    She reckons that the vast majority of her peers aim to do the same. Top destinations are USA, Canada & Australia, but most to England.

    They are terrified of emulating Spain and their youth unemployment.


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