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Young Spaniards adrift with 40 pct jobless rate

Source: AFP - Sun 19th Dec 2010

Young Spaniards are adrift in an unemployment market that leaves a staggering 40 percent of under 25-year-olds searching in vain for a job.

Even well qualified young graduates find they are shut out of the work place year after year.

Spain's overall unemployment rate, just under 20 percent, is already the highest in the European Union. But for those under 25 the rate is more than 40 percent, catching 860,000 young people.

Carolina Inesta studied for five years to attain her biology degree in 2004. She knew the hardest was yet to come. But six years later, now 29, she is still switching between temporary jobs and the dole queue, living on 600 euros a month.

"After my degree, I worked in a research laboratory. It was a part-time, very badly paid contract," said Inesta, who lives in Elche, a town of 200,000 people near Alicante, southeast Spain.

Like many, she found that even when she was lucky enough to get work it was either for a pittance or in a field for which she was far overqualified. "I was earning more as a part-time saleswoman than working in a laboratory," the biologist said.

Three years ago Carolina decided to try her chance in teaching, putting up with temporary and part time jobs. But in September, her last contract was not renewed for "budget reasons."

Now unemployed she receives just 400 euros a month, supplemented by 200 euros she earns by giving private lessons.

"You can't do anything with that. Luckily I live with my partner otherwise I would not even be able to pay the rent."

case is far from being an exception.

In the second quarter of 2010, one out of three of all unemployed Spaniards were aged under 30, according to the Spanish Youth Council, which promotes the rights of young people.

"It is a phenomenon that affects Europe in general but particularly Spain," said council president Ricardo Ibarra.

"Young Spaniards find themselves with very precarious contracts that they accept because they think it is the only way to find work and live their own lives," Ibarra said.

"The other problem is overqualification," he added.

In Spain, 44 percent of young graduates have jobs that demand little or no intellectual capacity according to the OECD, well above the average among industrialized nations of 23 percent.

Many young Spaniards without work launch into new training in the hope, often misplaced, that it will open doors.

Maria Fonseca, 29-year-old hairdresser, has been studying administration at Salamanca University in northwestern Spain since last year, hoping to get her diploma in June.

She arrived in Salamanca seven years ago and worked in a hairdressers' salon for a month. "Part time, I was very badly paid," she said. Then she had a string of small jobs - saleswoman, cake-shop worker, waitress.

Tired of the precarious position, she went back to study with a grant of a total 2,000 euros over two years.

To make ends meet she looks after a seven-year-old girl for three hours a day for 500 euros a month, without any contract or security. Already she has had enough: she still dreams of a stable job.

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