There is more to Spain than unemployment

If you’re between the ages of 20 and 25 and you live in Spain, your future isn’t looking particularly bright at the moment. To be honest, the future is looking bright for a very select few in the land of sangria (or if I want to be very dramatic, for Europe in general), but for clarity’s sake I shall focus on the people of my age-range.

It is popular general-knowledge that Spain, one of the so-called “PIGS”, had been deeply affected by the financial crisis in Europe and the measures of austerity.

More than four years passed since the beginning of the decline and since then the world has witnessed a series of changes (and lack thereof) overcoming the country; starting from the 15M movement that took the streets of Madrid, numerous politicians ending up behind the bars following corruption scandals, the King losing his country’s respect after a Safari trip involving elephant hunting (coupled with the appearance of various mistresses and a particular blonde that now follows him in official trips) and a new President who can barely put together a sentence in English.

But is that really all that is left of Spain?

No, fortunately, there are plenty things to be proud of if you’re Spanish. Here are some things you don’t know about Spain, this video is a definite must-see (if you don’t watch it the rest of the article won’t make sense):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XUFMxmIoFRc 

So, did you know about those projects? I confess I didn’t.

But why aren’t these ideas discussed more? Why is it that the only thing that seems to come out of Spain is bad publicity? Despite the concept of there being “no such thing as bad publicity”, I am sure it would help morale if people in Spain knew that some things are indeed working (and well) in their country.

And yet, while all those inspiring and innovative ideas are being carried out, youth (between the ages of 20 and 24 years) unemployment increased by 46.100 people in 2012, more than 5.2% compared to 2011. It is precisely in this era of economic draught that young people who work are expected to be overly grateful IF they have a job (the philosophy lies along the lines of “it doesn’t matter if you’re underpaid and over-qualified, grin and bear it!”) while working for free if they are interns.

At this point, you must be thinking “most interns work for free”. That is true, most interns all over Europe work for free or for very low salaries, but we have to take into consideration that some countries such as Sweden or Holland give economic aid to their students, allowing them to pursue internships without having to worry too much about the salary. Although the Spanish Ministry of Education offers scholarships to students based on merit and economic status, not everyone can benefit from them. Also, just because some agree or are able to offer free labour, doesn’t mean that everyone is willing to put up with it.

Last week a certain young 24-year old from Barcelona, Carlos, received an email from Bloom Estudio, a web-design company, after applying for an internship position with them. The offer made Bloom Estudio was the usual opportunity of working for free while the intern acquires an enriching experience of professional knowledge. Tired of offering his services without charge, Carlos gave an undignified response to the company in which he wrote (this is directly translated from the original):

“I’m sorry but I’m not buying this. You can decorate it as much as you like and write a sentence in 7 lines, but it’s not working. I know very well how these things work. I’ve had four finalized internships, three without a salary and one that was paid. It’s ALWAYS the same story: “We give you the opportunity to launch your career in a young agency with a dynamic team” blah, blah, blah. 

You are looking for a person to follow and take care of social networks, something that you guys aren’t doing well (I’ve already seen some of your communication channels). That person would be, lets say, working 4 hours a day (if they don’t end up being 8 or 10) doing a job that will benefit you and from which you will obtain investments from founders and partners. And what does that person receive in return? A pat on the back and a “well done, keep up the good work”. How is that person supposed to pay for transport? How do they pay for food? How do they lead their life? How do they pay the rent for their room? Should I go on?

With other non-paid interns I would be able to make my own company. I know very well that your position is for interns, but what you want to do is immoral and in proximity to slavery, apart from being embarrassing, amongst other things. I have more than three years of experience as a community manager and planner and for you to tell me that “we don’t pay so that the candidate can show their real value” appalls me (to say it in the nicest way possible) and the other 300 students of advertising with whom I’ve shared your message. 

You have already seen the news I passed on and what it has been doing to companies and agencies that use this method of free interns. It’s your choice. By the way, I have seen tens of ads and emails where they tell us that they are not going to give a salary, but I can assure you that none is as demolishing as the one that you once sent me. From here lets see where this goes, because I could’ve ignored it and forgotten, but your email is very offensive.

Good luck and regards,

Carlos”

As you have seen, there is more to Spain than economic fiascos and toreros. Behind the people with a slightly more relaxed conception of time lie great thinkers and innovators who are helping to shape the world’s way of thinking in some way of another, starting from Javier Solana, to Rafael Nadal, to Pedro Almodovar, to Jorge Lorenzo.

Sure, two of the people I have just named are sportsmen but there is nothing less important about a sportsmen compared to a politician. These are people who remind the world that the stereotype of “Spanish people being lazy” isn’t necessarily true, they are the ones proving how Spaniards do know the meaning of hard work and dedication.

So if you are Spanish and you are another “Carlos” who is fed up of the lack of opportunities around you, this is for you; don’t lose faith, you have so much to be proud of.

Chiara Romano Bosch.

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