The Eurobarometer, the public opinion analysis tool of the European Commission, interviewed 10,294 Europeans aged between 16 and 30 in the 28 EU member states between 9 and 25 April 2016, and found that most of them feel economically and socially marginalized by the crisis. Of course, there are incredible differences among the member state countries, on most of the issues addressed. In crucial questions pertaining to marginalization or feeling compelled to study, train or work in another country, the respondents in member states like Greece, Poland, Cyprus, Spain, Italy and Bulgaria seem to live in a different planet than their counterparts in Denmark and Germany.
In detail, the absolute majority of respondents (above 50%) in 21 countries feel excluded, though there are striking national differences of up to 66 points. For example, 93% of the Greek youths feel excluded in comparison to only 27% in Germany. As expected, the rates of those feeling excluded are very high in the countries, which were worst hit by the economic crisis. Despite that, in the EU as a whole, few young people (15%) really feel compelled to leave their country and seek employment and a better life elsewhere. Understandably, national results differ greatly between the well to do and the worse off countries.
Huge differences within the EU28
Differences are so huge between the member states, that it’s a high statistical risk operation to draw arithmetic means or medians. The classical example for the uselessness of averages, is middling the assets and the incomes of two persons, a billionaire and a homeless. This is not only scientifically unacceptable, but it may hide murky intentions. Calculating, for example, the EU28 average of youths feeling excluded at 57%, tells only part of the story.
See the whole picture
Undeniably though, it’s alarming enough to find that well above half, the EU youths are feeling ostracized by their own society. The striking differences between the youths in the south, who felt excluded at a rate of more than 70%, in comparison with the two best off countries (Germany and Denmark) where the relevant rates are estimated to be below 30%, is an obvious challenge and can be used as a policy guide for decision-makers, if any of them really cares about it.
There are more alarming findings, though, in this Eurobarometer survey. At the exclusion of these last two countries, all other member states produced a rate of feeling excluded youths of more than 40% (to be compared to an arithmetic mean of 57%). It’s quite disturbing to learn that almost half of the EU youths in 25 member states are feeling that way. To be noted here, that using the arithmetic mean as a research tool may hide the truth, that actually there aren’t many better off cases with lower exclusion rates than the mean. Even for Germany, the fact that one third of the youths (31%) of up to 30 years of age feel excluded, is a disturbing fact.
A dark future
The next thing that comes to mind is that the future is also not at all promising for those frustrated youngsters, because noticeable economic growth is excluded from the horizon. As a result, there are no good prospects in the foreseeable future for 31% of young Germans. It will be impossible for them to find a steady, secure and well paid job, like their parents did.
This reality has already been felt in the German political life. The left wing part of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) is currently raising critical questions, about the party’s participation in the decade long governing coalition with Algela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). Not to say anything about the rise of extreme right wing, xenophobic and nationalistic political groups all over the EU, a dreadfully reality fast developing.
What about education?
However, the Eurobarometer survey tackles the causes of this appalling reality for EU’s youth. In the nations where high percentages of youths are compelled to study, train or work in another country, those rates are tightly correlated with high proportions of poor adaptation of the education system to the world of work. It’s characteristic that, out of the four nations where the youths feel more compelled to leave their country, namely Cyprus, Poland Greece and Bulgaria, the three, at the exception of Poland, do not have an education system which can lead to a job.
Unfortunately, this observation means that things cannot change soon because redressing the education system to better answer the needs of the economy cannot be done overnight. If a groundbreaking reform of the education system started tomorrow, it would take at least the time span of one or two generations to adapt to the needs of the world of work. Even worse, there is no news coming from the worst hit countries about a realistic diagnosis of the problem and an equally pragmatic plan to reshuffle the education system.
It’s the economy, stupid!
In any case, the EU’s education system is not the basic cause of the present problems. Before the crisis, the education system was the same, if not less adapted to the economy than today. Yet, such problems were not so acute as now. Overall unemployment was low, the youths had much better prospects and most of them could choose out of an array of careers.
As for the ‘Youth Guarantee’ project, initiated and endowed with €6 billion by the EU to help the under 25s to get a job or a training within four months after leaving the education system, most of the European youths have not even heard of it. According to the survey, 76% of the EU young people don’t know anything about that. The percentages of ‘never heard’ range from 48% in Finland to 89% in the UK.
Real unemployment double the official rate
Unquestionably, the problems of the Europe’s young generations are related to the general destruction of the ‘good old’ structures, which guaranteed to almost all a normal working and social life. The problem is not only that the official overall unemployment rate is stuck above 10% for years now and ranges freely above 20% for the under 25s, but that real unemployment is double than the official rates. Alas, this newspaper has proved this, using Eurostat (the EU’s statistical service) data. No wonder then why overwhelming percentages of the EU youths feel excluded. And they are not alone in that.