Spaniards pushed into ‘economic exile’ tell their stories

Francisco Gomez moved to the United Kingdom from Salamanca, Spain.
 
The economic crisis has forced many young Spaniards to emigrate to find work. Three of them – one in Morocco, one in the United Kingdom, a third who is planning on leaving Spain soon – tell us their stories.
 
“No nos vamos, nos echan!” (“We are not leaving, they’re kicking us out!”) is the slogan used by the movement Juventudes sin futuro (Youth Without a Future) to protest the “economic exile” young Spaniards face because of the financial crisis. This slogan was chosen in response to the Minister of Immigration and Emigration, Marina del Coral, who attributed this wave of departures to “the adventurous spirit of the young”.
 
In Spain, the fourth biggest economy in the Eurozone, the level of unemployment has now reached 26% of the active population and affects more than 55% of young people. Despite a youth employment plan put in place by the Spanish government, the situation is steadily getting worse.
 
In light of this situation, more and more Spanish people are leaving their country to find work elsewhere - not only in Europe, but also in Morocco and Latin America.
 
If you too have had to leave Europe in search of work abroad, please feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.

“We are surviving thanks to my parents’ retirement fund”

Jaime Recio, 46, is a construction engineer. He lives in Madrid. After a long period of unemployment, he’s getting ready to leave the country with his family.
 
I have been unemployed for three years. The company I was working for went bankrupt because the building sector was one of the most affected by the economic crisis in Spain.
 
Finding work is difficult for me. I’m 46 and, despite my experience, it isn’t profitable for a business for hire me because they would have to pay taxes for my retirement, even though I have fewer working years ahead of me than behind me. I also have two-year-old twins, and having a family life is thought of as a handicap today in Spain - with those kinds of responsibilities, you can’t stay late at the office.
 
“My wife was fired because she was pregnant”
 
For my wife, choosing to have children was also a sacrifice. She’s a psychologist, and worked for a public welfare centre before getting pregnant. She was fired because they apparently considered a pregnant employee not to be profitable, not to mention having to pay for her maternity leave and for someone to replace her.
 
Our financial situation is very difficult today. We have no income, not even benefits for the children. When you have a baby, you get between 1,000 and 3,000 euros in benefits from the state, which is means tested, but after than, nothing. Also, whether you are unemployed or have a job, the amount of money you get doesn’t change. We get by today thanks to my parents’ retirement fund, with which we also have to pay 500 euros a month for the mortgage I took out to buy our apartment back when I was working.
 
My parents are sad to see us leave because of the crisis. During the 1960s, they also moved to find work; they lived in Germany for about 10 years. At the time it was normal, especially for non-qualified workers. They made sacrifices to pay for our education so we didn’t have to go through the same thing, but in the end, we’ve had to leave Spain to find work elsewhere too.
 
We hope to leave Madrid this summer. I spend my days on the Internet or on the telephone, looking for work opportunities. One of the countries we’re looking at is France because it’s not too far away and I speak French. There aren’t many job offers in other European countries either, but it’s still better than in Spain.
 

“When I was a student I turned down permanent contracts that I would have never been offered once I finished my degree!”

Lorenzo Castro, 29, has been working for two and a half years in a Spanish company based in Aïn Bni Mathar, a small village near Oujda in western Morocco.
 
The problem today in Spain is that the work you do find is either precarious or not what you’re trained to do. When I was a student in Madrid I turned down permanent contracts that I would have never been offered once I’d finished my degree, because of the economic crisis.
 
I have a double masters in project management and renewable energy. The company that hired me five and a half years ago had promised me a permanent contract after two years - but that was a false promise. My brother has moved to Brussels because even though he has a law degree, he was only getting offers for secretarial work.
 
The decision to leave is obviously not easy, especially when you don’t even move to a big city, but a small village like I did, where the cultural differences make interacting with the local population very difficult. Very few people speak French, English or Spanish here, so we just hang out with other expatriates. We don’t go unnoticed and not everyone likes us being here. The other day, the owner of a café claimed he had no more coffee just because he didn’t want to serve us.
 
 

“I worked for eight months as a waiter in Madrid with a law degree!”

Francisco Gomez, 30, is originally from Salamanca. He has lived in Tetbury, near Bristol in the United Kingdom, since August 2012.
  
I sell spare parts for an agricultural and construction machine supplier - a job that has nothing to do with my law degree!
 
I started working in Spain when I was a student because my parents couldn’t afford to pay all my expenses. Once I got my degree, I joined a law firm. I was on a temporary contract but I was hoping to stay in that job for longer. Unfortunately my boss couldn’t renew my contract - the crisis forced him to freeze employment.
 
I looked for work for nearly a year, and not just within the field I was trained for. The most important thing for me was to be able to work. I remember once, the person who was interviewing me to work for a moving company asked me if I realised I was overqualified for the job!
 
I decided to widen my net and applied for jobs outside of Spain - it didn’t matter where, as long as I would be able at least to get experience – in any domain. The decision to leave the country was difficult, but time was passing and I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing.
 
Tetbury is a small town; there’s not much to do. All the same, there is a Spanish community here, and the locals don’t make us feel too much like we’re foreigners - probably because we are Europeans and have the same culture. Nevertheless, I am still sending CVs to Spain and hope to go home. But considering what friends over there tell me, the hard times are not going to end anytime soon!
 
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