Youth: Time for the European Spring

Anti-austerity protest in Madrid, 27 November 2011.
Anti-austerity protest in Madrid, 27 November 2011.
Polityka (Warsaw)

One in every five young Europeans is out of a job, and even one in two in some countries. Numbers like these were enough to have the young generation rebel against governments in the Arab world, remarks a Polish columnist. What will happen if our social model deprives young people of all hope?

Greece may opt to leave the eurozone in September, Spain is planning on requesting a bailout from Europe, while the European Central Bank is preparing to buy more Italian bonds.

From the island paradises where they spend their holidays, our leaders are as usual pledging to prevent the breakup of the Eurozone. Mario Monti appears to be the only one with an honest word to say: “We will have to wait a few years before we can address a message of hope to the young generation”. The Italian Prime Minister is put out by the a 36% rate of unemployment faced by today’s 20-year-olds, and the fact that he can only offer “damage limitation” measures which will not prevent them from becoming “a lost generation.”

Regardless of what they do this week, even if they decide to pool their budgets and print billions of euros, Europe’s leaders will not be able to assuage the harm that has been wrought by this crisis.

Young generation should march on Brussels

The rate of youth unemployment in Europe now stands at 20%, and has ballooned to 52% in Spain and Greece. In countries like the UK where work is available, the jobs that are on offer are invariably short-term contracts. Precarious work is now the only option for a generation threatened by unemployment and poverty. In the Middle East, a 26% youth unemployment rate was sufficient to trigger the Arab revolutions. In Europe, we may have no dictators to depose, but Monti’s remarks are an indirect admission of the capitulation of democracy in response to the crisis.

Worsening conditions for young people have to some extent been offset by the European social model, and in particular the substantial pensions that enable parents to take charge of the financial burden on children who have no hope of finding steady work. But what will happen when these parents pass away, or when the Greek, Spanish and Italian governments decide to cut pension payments?

Instead of demonstrating against capitalism in their home countries, the young generation should march on Brussels to express its commitment to Europe. Italian and Spanish young people should ensure that their politicians rapidly push through measures to include them in the economy, while their German peers should campaign for a solidarity in marked contrast to the indifference espoused by their parents. And all of this must be done before the young generation becomes a lost generation, not only in terms of prosperity but also in terms of democracy.

Factual or translation error? Tell us.