Vanessa Tuduri was a 20-year-old student when the global financial crisis hit and her mother, who was helping pay for her studies, told her she would have to look elsewhere for financial support. Tuduri dropped out of university and joined the swelling ranks of young Spaniards looking for a job.
“We had dreams to grasp for, we wanted to eat the world up, we thought we would have everything, and then we were punched in the face by the crisis,” she says.
At its peak in mid-2013, youth unemployment in Spain exceeded 56 percent, according to the European Commission. Although the country’s economy has recently experienced an uptick, youth unemployment has a long tail, and its effects will be felt for decades—not only by the individuals, but also by the societies in which they live.
The scale may be exceptional in Spain, but the phenomenon of high youth unemployment is found in every region, from the serried ranks of the young jobless in the resource-rich Middle East, through the less mobile, less skilled youth in rural sub-Saharan Africa, to the overqualified, underemployed young in low-end service jobs in crisis-hit Europe.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 2014 more than 73 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 were searching for work—14 percent of the age group, globally, from a low of 12.4 percent in 2007. The figure of over 70 million does not include groups such as discouraged workers, who have given up the job hunt—some estimate the true number to be up to three times higher.