What are the long-term consequences of a younger generation being excluded from the job market? By acknowledging the problems linked to such exclusion the Church must strive with hope and generosity to help unemployed young people, said the archbishop Juan José Omella i Omella, president of the Bishops’ Commission for Social Pastoral Care of the Spanish Church.
The European Union has announced that the situation of unemployed youth is improving. What is the situation in Spain?
The recent economic crisis has destroyed huge numbers of jobs in Spain, especially those for the youngest workers. Currently, the total number of unemployed presently is just under 20% of the overall population. It was 10% in 2008. When examined in detail, figures show that young people have been most severely affected: youth unemployment amounts to approximately 42%, while in 2008 it averaged 21%
With no doubt, given this situation, many young people have seen their dreams and personal ambitions go to pieces.
The lack of stable jobs means that they cannot leave the parental home and have a family. As a result, their situation is one of permanent instability that is not good for anyone. For this reason, over the next few years, we must concentrate all our efforts on helping and supporting them so that they may improve their situation. We must dedicate ourselves to our youths, for in a few years they will the adults of our societies.
What are the long-term consequences of the exclusion of the young generations? For sure, the economic crisis is turning into a crisis that affects the credibility of our democratic institutions. We bear witness to the fact that world democracy is not in a very good state of health, and that many people are losing faith in our political institutions.
We have to create more flexible institutions that can be adapted to the current needs of young people, to prevent them from distancing themselves and losing all interest in public life. If we don’t succeed we will be overcome by an increasingly individualistic society. A widespread opinion among young people is: “If I don’t count for anything in society, then society cannot count on me.”
Spain has recently elected a new government: will it have an effect on youth unemployment? Spain’s greatest difficulties are of a structural nature, marked by the inherent weakness of a model based on low-skilled and unstable jobs. It is a model that fails to ensure the equal distribution of wealth, and it lacks sufficient policies to protect the family. For this set of reasons, a new government holds special significance. However, we should acknowledge the need for a medium long-term perspective, an approach that extends beyond the short-term vision aimed at promoting growth and employment at all costs. Protecting the most vulnerable persons and families must be a priority for all. We should not forget that we live in a large community and we should all help each other in order to move forward.
Apart from young people with unemployment benefits, will there be many Spanish youths with precarious jobs? Certain precarious jobs within a developed job market could act as a “springboard” for some groups of people who need to gain specific kills and experience. However, problems arise when precarious employment represents a large portion of the job market. When it happens it becomes evident that
Precarious employment is a “job trap”
Since it tightens in its grips those who fall into it. Several surveys show that people who entered the precarious job market in Spain have not changed their working conditions after 7-8 years. The high levels of precarious work means that just over 14% of Spanish workers live below the poverty line. Behind these stark figures there are people that need to be helped to lead a dignified life. The personal situation of each one of them directly impacts society as a whole: That’s why we need to find a solution: so that these low-income workers may have a better life. We cannot leave them behind.
What is the Church doing at local level to improve the situation of young people? The economic crisis has disoriented our youths. They grew diffident, lacking in self-esteem and confidence. They have little hope in the future. Caritas promotes the development of training and job-placement programs that extend beyond vocational training. In fact, they provide integral formation that encompasses aspect for personal development. The purpose of the programs is to offer an alternative to standardised vocational training by addressing the social and psychological aspects along with the professional skills required to boost job opportunities. These examples show that the Church is aware of the problems afflicting young people, striving with hope and generosity to help young people who are unemployed. Young people are the future of our societies and of the Church alike. They cannot be left to fall back on their own resources.