Spain’s Youth Unemployment Highest In Europe

Record employment figures for the month of February in Marbella. Image: /

UNEMPLOYMENT has always been an issue in Spain with numbers being the highest in the Eurozone, and though more people are working in the country than ever, unemployment rates are still five points above the historical minimum.

The impact of this hits hard, especially for the country’s youths because of a 16.9 percentage point unemployment rate among young people. Youth unemployment in Spain is now higher than in other Eurozone countries when only 16 years ago, Spain occupied ninth place.

The high rate of youth unemployment indicates serious issues with the labour market that are still far from resolution. Even though the National Institute of Statistics (INE) record lower levels of unemployment benefits claims than ever from people under 25, the decline is a reflection of young people being less interested in signing up for unemployment benefits. In Spain, family is still an important primary support network, and many unemployed young people rely on family to support them, rather than unemployment benefits.

Furthermore, the labour market in Spain has always been fluctuating due to seasonal work and peak employment periods, as tourism is a major industry in the country. Often peaks of employment can be seen from Easter through to the summer months, and drop significantly over autumn and winter.

According to the monthly data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) by the European Office of Statistics, the rate of young people without employment swung between a minimum of 17 .2 per cent in February 2007 and a maximum of 55.9 per cent in February 2013, almost six years later. The most recent data from May 2023 shows that the rate currently stands at 28.4 per cent.

The causes for youth employment arise mainly as a consequence of the financial crises and the pandemic, which significantly reduced work opportunities and also has caused a steep increase in school-leavers, with Spain rising to second place after Malta for the highest number of youths leaving school before completing their studies. According to Eurostat, in 2020, 16 per cent of youths between the ages of 18 to 24 left school before completing their obligatory studies (ESO). These school-leavers are resigned to finding more unstable work offers, as companies nowadays demand a different kind of profile with higher educational levels and languages.

The Popular Party (PP) introduced a labour reform in 2012 with incentives for companies to employ young people with financial subsidies for six months, but this only resulted in precarious, short-term contracts and workers being fired after the six months were over. This has led to a trend of unstable contracts and the inability of many young people to meet the financial needs of living alone, with an increasing trend of youths of working age living with their families into their thirties.

The fluctuating figures are concerning, In 2007, with the lowest youth unemployment rate to date, figures stood at 10.2 percentage points and Spain ranked ninth behind Greece, Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal, Finland, Belgium and Luxembourg.

In 2013, when unemployment rocketed to a record 31.4 percentage points, the country rose to fourth highest, after Italy, Croatia, and Greece. But in 2023, after falling to 16.9 percentage points, it is now in first place, creating doubt and uncertainty about the future of the job market for young people in Spain.

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Written by

Lisa Zeffertt

Lisa is British, born in Hong Kong and has lived in many countries including the UK, Hong Kong, Cyprus, and Thailand, Spain has been her home for the past 10 years. After graduating with a BA in English Literature and Art History, she has worked in different sectors, most recently as a ghostwriter and translator for six years Writing is one of her passions, as well as working in both Spanish (fluent) and English.