To move or not to move – is that the question?

Estefanía Almenta López (29, Spain)

I was born in Spain in a family of very humble means. My parents never had the opportunity to study, but I did thanks to the effort of my country, which paid for my education. Now I’m qualified and ready to give back to society the fruits of all the investment they did on me. Sadly I cannot do it because I cannot find a job.

When I hear about ‘Youth Guarantee Schemes’ and the ‘New Deal’ to tackle youth unemployment, it comes as a little ray of hope to me. Still I wonder: Will this be enough? These schemes address the problems of young people under 25 who are neither in employment nor in education or training (so-called NEETs), but what about we, highly educated young adults in our prime earning years? Everyone seems to have the solution for us: “Move”. Apparently it all comes down to being flexible and mobile. If you have good qualifications and you can’t find a job where you live, move somewhere else. On the surface it makes sense, but don’t let appearances fool you. I truly wish it was that simple.

Let’s imagine I decide to move to Germany. I could be a teacher. In that case, the first thing I’d need would be to gain domestic recognition of my degrees. Besides, I may be asked to undertake an aptitude test before my qualification is validated. Of course I’ll also be required to learn German. A friend of mine went through this process and it took her three years to complete it.

Even if moving was that simple, I seriously doubt that would improve the situation in Spain or the rest of the EU. It is highly educated professionals who actually have better chances if they migrate to other EU countries. In the case of Spain, politicians want to convey a positive message reporting that our emigrants used to be low-skilled workers, but now are the most prepared ones. “We export talent”, they say proudly. This would be good news if we had plenty of it, but the truth is that we have to ‘export’ our most talented candidates because our economy is not ready to take advantage of them. No wonder I’ve heard so many times lately: “You’re overqualified for this position.”

What is yet to be done, then? Angela Merkel, I’d like to drive your attention to one point: we don’t need to reform our economies, but to transform them. Reforms are aimed at making improvements but without touching the core of the system. For its part, transformations modify the whole structure and turn it into something completely different. I’ve witnessed a lot of reforms lately, but no transformations at all. If Spain, together with other European countries, wants to attain a sustainable competitiveness, the EU has to invest more on Research, Development and Innovation, instead of focusing so much on reactivating the traditional dominant sectors of its economy. Otherwise, the economy may recover, but it will remain deeply dependent and fragile, making it particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in global markets.