3: No Jobs, No Hope: The Future of Youth Employment in Spain

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In order to understand youth unemployment in Spain, it is necessary to acknowledge that (a) it has been a persistent phenomenon in the last three decades; (b) the recent economic and financial crisis has hit youth harder than any other group; and (c) chronic youth unemployment is quite uneven across regions in Spain, with Andalucía reporting unemployment rates almost double that of Basque country and more than triple that of the EU-28 in 2018.

Youth unemployment problems in Spain are associated fundamentally with economic growth rates, human capital development and active labor market policies. In this chapter, we focus more on the human capital factors that either promote or depress youth unemployment and on the Spanish labor market policy efforts that have targeted youth. To be sure, Spain does not traditionally have specific policies or legislation that pertain only to youth, but any efforts aimed at the educational system as a whole, and other active labor market policies that relate to this segment of the population, can be considered under the ‘catch-all’ umbrella of youth-oriented policies.

In what follows, we review the nature and magnitude of youth unemployment in Spain and the regional variations. We explore the causes for these high rates, and discuss the Spanish government’s efforts in boosting both the educational and labor market opportunities for youth, and whether these efforts have borne fruit. We also consider the German apprenticeship model and the American entrepreneurship model as potential ways out of high rates of youth unemployment for Spain.

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