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October 28, 2012
October 28, 2012

Unemployed. They don’t study nor work. What are young people doing (and what are they thinking of)?

Author: Natalia Faria Translator: Vera Pinheiro
Source: Noticias PT  Categories: Dialogues, On the crisis
This article is also available in: elesfrpt-pt
Unemployed. They don’t study nor work. What are young people doing (and what are they thinking of)?


This week, a published study by an EU agency estimates that around 14 million young Europeans between 15 and 29 years old are currently out of the educational system and with no place in the work market. In Portugal the number should be around 260 thousand, a historical record which tends to be elevated due to the financial crisis as well as by the employment erosion. Lost generation? There are still those that refuse to give up.

Mário doesn’t have access to welfare training programmes because he has a diploma

For six years my daily life consisted of getting up at 7am, working until 8pm, going home to have dinner and a shower and then attend classes. I got a degree in Graphic Design, in a private University, and during the last year I asked for a bank loan so I could pay for the €3500 yearly fees. But I was working, earning €650, and so I managed to pay back the total loan. I lost my job at the beginning of January. I was a department supervisor in a company of gift advertising, but I was fired along with several other colleagues. In the first two months I was in total depression: I would go to bed at 3 or 4am, staying up late watching TV, and then I would get up at 2pm and do nothing. Then I enrolled for swimming lessons at 10am so I could force myself to get out. Meanwhile, I started thinking about life, my age, my future and I realized that I had to start looking for some sort of solution to get myself out of the pit. I get €440 as unemployment benefits from the State, because my boss was only declaring paying me the minimum wage. It is quite depressing to go to the unemployment centre. There are huge queues of people complaining. Previously, as soon as I finished my course and started looking for a job in my field, there were tons of job proposals. Now, if you ever see one it would be a proposal to go abroad and earn €1,500. What are you going to do with €1,500 in the US?

I am aware of my values and capabilities, but if I have to clean toilettes I would rather do it in Portugal. I still haven’t lost the hope of creating my own business in the restoration field. I still have some money left from selling my car, so every now and then I take a look at the real estate adds to get an idea of how much it would cost to rent a place. I am doing nothing because I don’t have access to the training given in the unemployment centres. If a carpenter job was available, I would not mind taking a training course in this area and work as such, but I am always told that, since I have a degree, I’m not entitled to any kind of training. Could it be that I, after all these years and efforts to complete my course, do not have the same rights as someone that has finished the 9th grade? My mother got fired as well and now she’s also at home, depressed. I try to escape, go for a coffee with friends and exchange some ideas. I have given up on watching the news, so that I avoid getting depressed again. I already know that I have to pay, no matter what…

Patrícia still votes, but she no longer believes that “the country can go better”


Sleep helps. In the worst days, I take my daughters to school and come back to bed and sleep as much as I can. It helps me not to think. Sometimes, when they arrive home, I put some loud music on in the house to see if it can bring me some good mood. I try not to cry in front of them. I think that the phrase I have most frequently used with them in the past few months has been: “It is not possible, mommy doesn’t have any money…”. When I was working I was still able to give them some comfort. I would go to the supermarket and I would always bring some chocolate eggs; always the same for both. That’s the sort of paranoia I have. Everything needs to be equal for both. One is five and the other eight years old. I have already found myself thinking whom I could ask for a piece of bread or an apple for my little girls to take to school.

I want to continue living here, because I want to see them grow up. They are my only luck. Regarding the rest… whatever job comes up I’ll take it, but it seems that I am unlucky. The last job I managed to get, almost a year ago, was cleaning in the Matosinhos market. I would then get €20 per day, working from 7am to 7pm. When I didn’t have welfare tickets for the bus, I walked or got a lift from my neighbour. But at the end of the day, I almost didn’t have any time to spend with my daughters. And it was very little money, not worth it. Now I get €150 from the Yield of Social Insertion (RSI, Rendimento Social de Inserção), plus €100 as benefits for one of my daughters. For the other one I haven’t asked for a pension because her father is not always doing the right thing, so I would risk losing the RSI. I still receive €84 as family allowance, but in total it is not enough to cover everything.

I take a look around and I see more unemployed people than employed. I already gave up on going to the interviews. They ask for educational records, but I have only completed the 6th grade. They ask for experience and I don’t have it. They ask for good looks, and I am even ashamed of smiling because of my teeth. I know that people often think that I have rotten teeth because I’m taking drugs, but I can assure you that I have never done such a thing. It happened during my second pregnancy, apparently my daughter “ate” my calcium. I have already asked the Social Security to have them fixed, but they say it’s too expensive. I look much older. I feel much older. I avoid thinking because, if I do, all I want to do is wrong. So, I’m keeping my faith by believing in the job promises. I already talked to a friend of mine that works in a cleaning firm to see if they have any positions there, someone also told me about a man who was looking for someone to work in agriculture in some farms.

I vote, I still do, but I no longer believe that the country could go better.

João suggests that the Government funds trips abroad


In one year, I lost both my car and my computer. But this is not the worst. The worst is wanting to do something and realising that the best offer I could get, if I ever got lucky, would be to work 10 hours per day, earning €550 per month and having one day off per week. I don’t get it. There are no jobs, but in those that are still available, they want to make people work more and receive less, instead of lightening the burden and allowing more people to work as well as having more time to live their lives. It seems that the world is now divided into work slaves and those who, like me, cannot work and therefore cannot do anything else, because they have no money and they get depressed.

They still haven’t killed my hope. I started by getting a degree in Hotel Management, then I tried Marketing, but I ended up giving up after two years. In my last job I was working as a gas station manager. I would earn €842, but after almost two years, they just sent me away so they would not have to integrate me into the company’s staff. It has been more than a year since I’m doing nothing, but I ‘m still looking for a job. I would like to work in the restaurant business and I’ve been sending my CV around, I’m going to nearby restaurants, esplanades. Sometimes I feel ashamed. I’m aware of my value, but I feel like I’m begging.

I live with my mother, my stepfather, my niece and two dogs. I try to help at home by preparing dinner, doing the dishes, but if I could help with home expenses as well, I would feel much happier. Sometimes I have to ask €20 from my mother -something I don’t like doing- only to get this question in return: “Have you already spent everything?!”. But the alternative would be to stay at home all day long and not even go out for a drink. I don’t think this would help either. Now I’m not even getting the unemployment benefits, but I can take advantage of the fact that my brother, immigrant in the UK, is around for now so I can spend a little bit with his help: get a coffee, buy cigarettes, everything’s on him. I am unemployed, I could immigrate if the experience that I have already had in England hadn’t been so bad. I went and came back in a worse situation than before, because I spent a lot of money on tickets and accommodation without getting anything in return. Sometimes I think that, if there’s not enough place for everyone here, the Government may as well hire coaches, promote trips and help people go away. At least we would save the money for the trip.

Ana knows that she’ll be fired every year and a half of work.


It is a little bit sad to say it, but McDonald’s was the place I liked to work at the most. Sometimes people say “Ah, what a horror, in McDonald’s” and I was even earning a miserable salary, but at least I had a job. At the time, I was still completing my 12th grade, and I was the one to resign because I had a project in mind, to open a fashion accessories’ shop. The business didn’t go so well in the end; it only worked for half a year. Then I got a job in a gas station in Matosinhos. The salary was €520, not much, but at least it was a job. When I started working, there was already little offer in the market. Nonetheless, for me, used to earn little, it was good. But, people like my mother, who have more expenses, cannot accept such wages. My mother was a manager in the Mattel Portugal –Barbie’s company– but she was fired just before Christmas. They called her from Spain saying that they wanted to talk to her at the airport; they got her fired and took off again. If I was not living with her I would not have money to eat. I was fired as well from the gas station in October 2011 and I never got a job since. At some point, I got to work for four days in a shop. I did the interview, got selected and after four days of work they called me in to sign a contract. Half an hour later, they asked me to sign a resignation letter, because they had received an e-mail from Human Resources saying that, in the end, the business was not doing so well. Later on something similar happened again: they called me, asked for my uniform’s measures and, 43min later, they told me that the administration would not allow the contract.

I don’t mind doing the morning, afternoon or night shifts, the problem is that there are no jobs. The alternative would be to think that the problem is myself but I really don’t think that this is the case. The only thing I’m sure of is that, even if I get a contract, I know that after one year and a half I’ll be fired again. It is stupid, but I would be way more frustrated if I had gone to University. I would have spent all those years studying and I would most probably be in the same situation as I am now.

I got sick of the news. All they do is talk about the crisis or assaults or people losing their homes –always negative things that drag you to the bottom, when I already feel bad enough not to have a place of my own. I remember some news concerning an unemployed young guy that went on hunger strike in Santa Catarina’s street in Porto, and that later on received tons of job offers. Sometimes… I don’t know. It is sad.

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