/Young, Wild and JobLESS

Young, Wild and JobLESS

Image: flickr, Khalil Shah

The 22-year-old Artūras Vilčiauskas looks handsome in his suit. Unemployed since June, he feels anxious about the job interview today. The Law graduate’s previous confidence for speaking three languages has shrunk to below zero:

“If they give me money, they can even call me a clown.”

Finding a job is a necessity to Artur – the only road he knows to owning his own business. He doesn’t much care for the title as long as it is enough not to “starve to death”.

Jobless and lost, Artur can be the EU’s perfect guinea pig: addressing smart entrepreneurship as a way to tackle growth and unemployment issues is one of EU’s objectives as part of the 2020 strategy. Currently, there are nearly 4.3 million unemployed people under the age of 25. This problem of growing importance since the 2008 crisis, was to be discussed in Bratislava on 16 September during the meeting of the European Council but instead was sent to the back seat until December.

If Artur’s dream to own a bar was to come true, he would need €60,000 initial investment. Such an initiative could qualify for EU funding if the entrepreneur wanted to expand his business or if he wanted to participate in different networks for young entrepreneurs. At the end, Artur needs a loan but he does not meet the first requirement – a stable income. The reason why the boy is currently in a suit and frantically rehearsing his interview:

“Why you wanna work for us?… cuz being homeless does not look well on your CV.” He laughs.

 

Youth unemployment rates, EU-28 and EA-19, seasonally adjusted, January 2000 – July 2016 (%)
Youth unemployment rates, EU-28 and EA-19, seasonally adjusted, January 2000 – July 2016 (%), Source: Eurostat

 

Another whim of his is to develop a tracking bracelet for people with Alzheimer’s. But he is puzzled as to where to start from. As his thoughts are interrupted because it is time for his job interview, I decide to look into the topic. After googling youth entrepreneurship, I end up with numerous EU funds. Yet, I find myself bookmarking pages full of information “about us” and not a single page “about you”.

After a while, I end up visiting the website of Horizon 2020. This turns out to be the platform all startups around Europe have been looking for. It sets aside €2.8 billion purely for entrepreneurship. The question here is why so many promising baby programmes for EU funding are unable to crawl faster towards public awareness.

Could this be the reason why eight years after former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez said that Europe has lagged far behind the US, “failing to produce a Bill Gates,” (Financial Times), it is still living in the shadows. According to ‘Forbes’, the US puts Europe to shame by owning 16 of the 2016 most innovative companies in contrast to just two EU-based.

It is not that the European Union fails to meet the needs of young citizens but it fails to show them that it cares. My thoughts on the pressing need of an advertising lecture because of the startling statistics are interrupted by the phone ringing. It has been more than an hour.

Artur must have finished his interview.

“Peace and quiet,” That is the meaning of the name Tihomira in Bulgarian. Not sure that these words are the best to describe the impulsive Tisha. “I am passionate about a thing and I do my best to obtain it even if I am disappointed after” confides this long brown haired young woman. That’s why in high school, she dropped mathematics from one day to the next for a literature orientation with the new idea to become journalist. A radical change and a new dream for Tihomira and her constant need for challenges. Her passion? Politics. “I have loved politics ever since I can remember myself,” she admits with a glint in her eyes. Six years before her birth, in 1989, her country, Bulgaria was right in the middle of a “Revolution” and her parents were part of the protest. So, it goes without saying that politics is central for the Doncheva family. No doubt that Tisha has inherited some of the determination of her role models: Her parents, her grand-mother but also a teacher in the last year of high school whose culture satisfied Tihomira’s thirst for knowledge. But she wanted more, she wanted to live an adventure and discover another way of studying. “You see the ugly sweaters that students are wearing in Anglo-Saxon movies? I dreamt of it, I wanted to be part of this system and to carry heavy books like them when I was a child,” So, Tihomira has left the heat of Bulgaria for the grey city of Aberdeen in the north of Scotland to study Journalism. After two years, the rose tinted spectacles which made her see European Union perfect were quite faded. “Bulgaria is not that bad actually.” And for Tihomira, the future might be written in Cyrillic… Kindly written by Anne-Laure de Chalup