Pablo Simón, a political scientist and professor at the University Carlos III. Author of ‘El muro Invisible’ (The Invisible Wall).
– In ‘The Invisible Wall’ you address the challenges facing today’s youth. Have there been any changes? What is the situation today? Has anything changed with the change of government?
– The truth is that, in structural terms, there have not been many changes. It is true, however, that some specific policies have been refocussed. For example, the attention the new Government is dedicating to child poverty, linked to the emergence of the High Commissioner on the matter, or the fact that they have repeatedly announced that they want to launch a plan to eradicate job instability issues affecting young people. These are political orientations that differ from those we had before, but it is also true that now, with the government’s meagre parliamentary majority, we shall not know, for some time yet, to what extent we shall see all this translated into specific initiatives.
– Are youth employment issues for them to solve?
– The difficulties regarding youth employability are based on many factors, but it is not an issue that is just their responsibility. The structural opportunities they have in the educational environment or in the job market is something they do not control. Of course, young people can make different decisions that will improve their ability to find jobs, such as trying to refresh their skills, having a broad range of studies and training, fluency in languages, trips abroad, that allow them to open their minds. But all that is going to depend greatly on available family resources and also on their level of motivation. The motivation that families provide and the expectations that young people have play a crucial role in shaping their personal aspirations. I think this requires a collective effort. It is not only an issue for young people, but for society as a whole.
– What advice would you give to young people who want to join the labour market? And to those who already have low paid jobs?
– My advice would be the same in both cases: study, study, study. You have to try to be as well prepared as possible to deal with a labour market that is as precarious as the Spanish market is. You have to try to train as much as possible, have worthwhile experience in Spain and abroad, and even leave for a while and then come back if possible. In the end, what we find is that having more studies protects you against unemployment. The precarious nature of the market is not in their hands, but it is a buffer that can provide some protection. I would insist on this aspect.
– What do we do with overqualified youths who are unable to find jobs like a young engineer mentioned at the BYEF?
– Regarding overqualifications, we need to talk a lot about changes to our production system and this is something that cannot be done overnight. We need to be more efficient regarding employment niches; we need to reform our public employment services to provide more effective support from the moment young people join the job market. We have to find the best synergies for our businesses to grow and become more competitive, more investment in R&D. I believe that this requires very ambitious policies and their effects will only be seen in the medium and long-term. This is something we all have to do but, indeed, without in-depth changes to our production model, we will continue to come up against this type of problem.
– You mentioned, at the BYEF, that these labour issues mark young people for life.
– The most important moments in life and in the cognitive, psycho-emotional and career development of a person are childhood and youth. I would almost say that early childhood is fundamental, decisive. But youth is also important because it is the most productive period of our lives when our character is being formed. For young people and children in situations of precariousness and poverty, the problem is that in these years, when they should be developing, they come up against a wall, with the constraints imposed by a situation of social vulnerability. And, if we are unable to deal with this, it will have long-term effects and, therefore, it will mark people for the rest of their lives. Every minute we dedicate to talking about these issues should serve to raise awareness and, above all, to encourage the public authorities to act now because, if we don’t, we will be wasting a lot of talent that will not be able to develop in all fullness and, furthermore, we will be creating problems of inequality that will appear in the near future.