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Jobless Rates For Young Europeans Hit Record Levels

Jul 3, 2013

Jobless rates for people between the ages of 18 to 25 are skyrocketing across the European Union.

EU leaders recently took a step to try to stem the tide by agreeing to pump $8 billion into job training programs for young people.

Young people in Greece are being hit especially hard. The unemployment rate for them is more than 60 percent.


  • Mark Lowen, reporter for the BBC. He tweets @marklowen.
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In a moment, we're in an economic recovery. So why does it feel so lousy for some people? But first, leaders of the European Union are promising to pump $8 billion into job training programs for young people, trying to stem the tide of record unemployment across the EU. The BBC's Mark Lowen reports on the depth of the jobless problem for young people in Greece.

MARK LOWEN: Since the country's first bailout three years ago and the spending cuts that followed, the jobless rate here has gone from under 12 percent to 27 percent, and among young people, it's risen from 31 percent to over 64 percent today. Recession has hit hard, but it's austerity that has had such a devastating impact.

CRISTINA ZAHAGU: Web developer, 20 euros per hour, no experience, desk job.

LOWEN: And so the brightest, like 23-year-old Cristina Zahagu(ph), are leaving. Greek emigration to Germany jumped by over 40 percent last year. She's now following after failing to find a job here, despite her daily newspaper search. The brain drain could have dire consequences for Greece in years to come.

ZAHAGU: I don't want to leave my family, my mother and my father. Abroad, I won't have friends. At least in the first year, it would be difficult to find friends. But I have no choice.

LOWEN: It's a sacrifice you're willing to make.

ZAHAGU: Yes, because I can't find anything hopeful here in Greece. The Greek economy won't recover, because only the old people will stay here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Foreign language spoken)

LOWEN: But some are fighting back. Youth startups here are growing fast. A group of 22-year-old entrepreneurs launched GloVo a few months ago, finding volunteers for events. Co-founder Aris Konstantinidis warms up his new recruits to work at the Contemporary Art Fair of Athens. He insists that Greece's young talent must not accept the scourge of unemployment.

ARIS KONSTANTINIDIS: Many people think that the financial crisis is like a dead end. I believe that it's not like a dead end. I believe that it's an opportunity through which we can take hold of our future, and we can save it from the beginning, get rid of the old negative attitudes. The young people have to show the way and lead the path. We have to become the leaders of Greece.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: It's a series of 123 drawings.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: And with a story underneath?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Yes. It's something like a diary. So if you...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah.

LOWEN: Walking around the art show, you see the young volunteers everywhere, welcoming people at the door, providing information about the works and guiding visitors around. They're energetic and keen to work, and that is GloVo's advantage: a startup by the youth for the youth. And for the volunteers, it gives them the experience and perhaps positive prospects in an otherwise bleak financial climate.

ZAHAGU: Volunteering in Greece, it's more popular, because there are not many jobs. And young people have the urge to do something, and we have a really nice time here with all the volunteers, all together. It really distracts you from all these crises and all the depressing situation that our country goes through.

KONSTANTINIDIS: It's the only way to overcome the crisis. I think we have to fight. If we stand and wait, well, what am I going to do, nothing will get better.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Singing) Never give up. It's such a wonderful life.

LOWEN: This ancient country is full of youthful vitality, the bars of Athens crowded with young people keeping a brave face. One in 10 here are under the age of 25. Greece needs to keep them to rebuild it. But they are too often stranded by the crisis, left jobless or pushed abroad, the lost generation of today's Greece.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Singing) Don't let go.

YOUNG: The BBC's Mark Lowen, in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.