Southern Europe's lost generation stuck in junk jobs

Mon Oct 17, 2011 1:19pm EDT
 
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By Fiona Ortiz and Feliciano Tisera

MADRID (Reuters) - Sylvia knew things would be tough, but never like this.

With a masters' degree in publicity, the 24-year-old has been working for more than two years, full-time, in an internship that is starting to feel like it will never end.

Paid 300 euros a month for the same work as the salaried public relations professionals who sit next to her, she doesn't earn enough to move out of her parents' house and her bus pass and lunch expenses eat up most of her pay.

But despite feeling her multinational employer is flouting rules that limit the use of worker contracts with no benefits, she's not about to complain to the labor office since she considers herself blessed to have a job at all.

"Since I was little my parents urged me to get a university degree to find good work. But I'm lucky to have any work at all. There were 30 of us in my graduating class and I'm one of the ones who is doing the best with their career," Silvia said. She did not want her last name used in case of repercussions at work.

With Spain's youth unemployment higher than 40 percent and its overall joblessness the highest in the European Union at one in five, young professionals accept any conditions as they try to start their careers.

The story is much the same in neighboring Portugal and Italy where more and more people have so-called junk jobs: temporary contracts that used to be common in tourism, farming and construction but are now used by all kinds of companies.

With the economy sluggish and the euro zone debt crisis strangling credit, businesses are keener than ever to avoid open-ended contracts with expensive severance pay.   Continued...