Germany hosts Europe's unemployed youths

With no jobs at home, Craig O'Callaghan explains why young people in southern Europe are instead moving to Germany – and why the Germans are happy to have them

Summer. A time for young people to flock en masse to the various nightlife capitals of Europe, in search of sun, sex and suspicious substances. This year, however, hundreds of thousands of young Europeans are packing their bags and travelling abroad for a different reason: work.

As you've probably heard, things aren't looking great in some European economies. Graduates in the UK may complain about graduate opportunities but it could be so much worse: in Greece and Spain, youth unemployment is over 55%.

With jobs at home hard to come by, more and more Europeans are considering looking for work abroad. When surveyed, five million EU nationals stated a desire to move to a more prosperous country. At the top of the list of destinations: Britain and Germany.

Laura Mengual originally came to England to study. However, after the economic collapse back home, she decided to stay.

"I moved to Brighton as people said there were a lot of opportunities for work here. For the moment I'm just working in places where I can earn money and finance my stay but over time I will try to get a job relevant to my preferred career (economics)."

Deutschland uber alles

Before the prospect of thousands of foreigners arriving on our shores looking for work has you in a fit of apoplectic rage (hello, Daily Mail reader), consider this. Although Britain remains the most popular destination for EU migrants, its popularity is gradually decreasing.

Germany, on the other hand, is seeing an astonishing increase in the number of EU migrants, up by 13% since 2008. From 2010-11 to 2011-12, 45% more Spaniards arrived in Germany looking for work, along with 43% more Greeks and 40% more Italians. Germany, it seems, is the place to be.

Getting too old for this

You would perhaps expect such a large number of immigrants to be a concern for the German government. However, the truth is actually the complete opposite: the vast majority of new arrivals are being warmly welcomed. Whilst Britain remains fearful of the impact of foreign workers, Germany realises this is a chance to fill a gap in their shrinking population.

Since 2004, Germany's population has been steadily decreasing. By 2020, 60% more people are estimated to leave Germany's working-age population than will enter it. By 2025, Germany will have lost 6.5 million people of working age. By 2030, the shortfall of workers is expected to exceed 5 million, with approximately half needing an education to degree level.

Given these stark forecasts, it's unsurprising Germany is actively encouraging the arrival of skilled migrants looking for work. Demand for low-skilled workers in Germany isn't on the rise, but there is a notable shortage of scientists, electricians, engineers and nurses to name but a few professions.

Come one, come all

Sensing an opportunity, the German Chamber of Commerce have been organising information sessions about emigration in major Spanish cities. Spanish citizens looking for work are encouraged to apply through the European Commission's job exchange program. Last month, 17,000 Spaniards applied for positions in Germany.

Until recently, Germany has been an unattractive destination for Spanish workers, especially as German isn't a widely-taught language in Spanish schools. However, language courses in Spain and other southern European countries are reporting record attendance levels, particularly in German.

In Spain, the Goethe Institute's enrollment for German lessons has increased by 70% in the last three years. One likely factor in this dramatic increase to over 10,000 students is a German government scheme which pays foreign recruits to learn the language before starting work.

Other schemes and incentives operate on a far more local basis. The Chamber of Crafts for Munich and Upper Bavaria has established a scheme pairing employers in and around Munich with young Spaniards who possess the necessary job training and work experience. Considering the number of German firms suffering a shortage of junior staff has more than doubled between 2004 and 2010, it's a win-win.

Trouble back home

Whilst Germany benefits from the best and brightest of southern Europe, spare a thought for the countries they're leaving behind. If economic woes weren't crippling enough for the likes of Spain and Greece, they must also anticipate losing some of their brightest prospects.

For instance, austerity measures in Spain have led to spending on science and research taking a massive hit. There are even reports of universities struggling to pay for gloves and lab coats for their students. Given this, it's unsurprising so many young people are keen to leave.

However, the trend can't continue indefinitely if Spain, and other struggling EU nations, are ever going to find a path towards economic recovery. Unsurprisingly, the Spanish government has faced criticism for cutting back instead of attempting to promote growth.

Perhaps sensing the possibility of permanent damage, Angela Merkel has declared youth unemployment to be Europe's "most pressing problem". Plans are underway to guarantee every young European a job, apprenticeship or place in higher education within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed, a scheme which will cost €8 billion over the next two years.

Despite this, many young people remain unsure over their future. Sara Castro, a student from the Universidad de Salamanca, told us "I have no clue about what I'm going to do but I don't exclude working abroad in the future."

For young people like Sara, there needs to be proof the money being thrown at the problem is having an impact. Until then, Germany's Mediterranean community is likely to keep on growing.

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