The amount of young Catalans working abroad has increased by 42.46% in the past four years

Young people are increasingly abandoning Catalonia in order to find employment abroad. During the past four years, the amount of Catalans between the ages of 15 and 34 that are working abroad has increased by 42.46%, according to a study released by the youth trade union Avalot. This figure represents an increase of 35,547 in 2009 to 50,640 in 2013 – a rise of 15,093 people. The National Coordinator of Youth Action of Spain’s largest trade union (Comisiones Obreras – CCOO), Aina Vidal, spoke with the CNA and highlighted how this emigration “is by no means a choice”, and that “these are young, highly qualified graduates that are leaving because they have no future here”.

Flights at the Barcelona airport (by ACN)
Flights at the Barcelona airport (by ACN) / Julian Scully

Julian Scully

September 4, 2013 08:18 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- Between 2009 and 2013, the amount of Catalans between the ages of 15 and 34 that have left in order to work abroad has gone up by 42.46%, according to figures released by the youth trade union Avalot. In 2009, there were 35,547 young Catalans working abroad, while 4 years later this figure is 50,640 – an increase of 15,059. Young people are, more than ever before, forced to leave their homes and search abroad in order to make a living as there are currently not enough opportunities for them. 

The National Coordinator of Youth Action of Spain’s largest trade union (Comisiones Obreras – CCOO) has told the CNA that this dramatic emigration “is by no means a choice”, and that “these are highly qualified graduates that are leaving because they have no future here”. The causes of this emigration is said to be job reduction (since the first quarter of 2007, of the total lost jobs 67% were held by young people) and the extremely high unemployment rate (a 53% rate for people aged between 16 and 24).

“Very dangerous long term economic effects”

It was announced in July by Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel García Margallo, that every month 8,000 university graduates leave Spain “due to a lack of job opportunities”.  Indeed, it does appear that there may be a ‘lost generation’ of young professionals who have no opportunities in their own country to gain employment, with many highly qualified graduates having to work in manual labour jobs to simply make ends meet. Many are looking to obtain higher qualifications in order to ‘weather the storm’ and wait for the jobs to finally return. Between 2008 and 2013, 37,000 inactive students returned to education institutions, a figure which represents 14% of Catalonia’s student population.

The majority of youngsters that are emigrating have good quality degrees and are highly qualified according to Vidal. “They go because they have been unemployed for a long period of time and because they have no future here; it is not a choice”, she stated. With over 77% of people under 30 still living with their parents it may seem logical that they chose a move abroad. “Many go to Germany and when they do eventually come back it is likely that they will have added to their CV’s, however, it is important to recognise that they do want to return”, Vidal highlighted.

Catalonia has throughout history depended on immigration to support the natural growth rate with many coming from other parts of Spain as well as from abroad. However, the foreign population living in Catalonia is also on the decline as the amount of work dries up. When asked how the emigration of young Catalans will affect the economy and the population structure, Vidal stated that it will result in “very dangerous long term economic effects”. These “are the people most qualified and the country has spent a lot on developing them”, she said. “Individually it could be good for them, but for the country it will be highly damaging” she continued. As the Catalan economy is still recovering from the current crisis these professionals are going to continue searching abroad for work. However, through doing this it is possible that they are contributing to their personal development.

A positive phenomenon?

While at first glance this process of emigration may seem to highlight the shortfalls in the Catalan economy due to the fact it cannot retain some if its most highly trained youngsters, the outlook in the future may not be all doom and gloom. Although many leave as a last resort as they can no longer support themselves, upon obtaining work abroad, these migrants are likely to improve their language skills, have secure long term employment and broaden their horizons.

According to the Director of Migrations of the Catalan CCOO, Carles Bertran, the key to this emigration being a positive trend is for these youngsters to have planned sufficiently, and to know what they will do upon arriving at their destinations. “It is important that when these young people move abroad that they are prepared, in that they have sufficient language skills and know the job market when they arrive, the problem arises when they are unprepared”, he claimed.

In today’s globalised world it is also easier for people to remain in contact with friends and family through advancements in technology and visit for a fraction of the price that it was 30 years ago. From an individual point of view, the idea of leaving ones family home and embarking on a foreign adventure may propel some get away. According to figures released by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (INE) the total number of Spanish national’s living abroad between 2012 and 2013 increased by 459,557 to 1,931,248 with the majority going to Europe and the Americas. Bertran highlighted how “this emigration is not necessarily a problem, but it is important to create opportunities for them when they return”.

Catalans to receive professional training in Cologne

A new programme promoted by the CCOO is being developed that will give young people the opportunity to go abroad and begin professional on order to kick-start their careers. The project, called The Job of My Life, will involve young unskilled Catalans who are given a three year contract in Cologne and will have all their training, travel and accommodation costs paid for. Once they have completed their training – which involves extensive German classes – they will receive a qualification and will be in a far better position to find high quality work whether that be in Germany or back in Catalonia.

The aim of the project is to provide opportunities for young unskilled workers who may not have the resources to work abroad that skilled workers have. Bertran praised the initiative as the participants will broaden their horizons and develop a wide range of skills. “When these young people do eventually return to Catalonia, they will have gained both professional as well as language skills. They will also be qualified in their field of work and I believe the project is highly beneficial for society as a whole”, he stated.