“All your life,” says Argyro Paraskeva, “you’ve been told you’re a golden prince. The future awaits: it’s bright, it’s yours. You have a degree! You’ll have a good job, a fine life. And then suddenly you find it’s not true.”
Or not so suddenly. Paraskeva left Thessaloniki University five years ago with an MSc in molecular biology. Beyond some private tutoring, paid essay writing (“I’m not proud. But a 50-page essay is €150”) and a short unhappy spell in a medical laboratory, she hasn’t worked since.
Over cold tea in a sunlit cafe in Greece‘s second city, Paraskeva says she has written “literally hundreds of letters”. Every few months, a new round: schools, labs, hospitals, clinics, companies. She delivers them by hand, around the region. She’s had three interviews. “I will go anywhere, really anywhere,” she says. “I no longer have the luxury of believing I have a choice. If someone wants a teacher, I will go. If they want a secretary, I will go. If they want a lab assistant, I will go.”
So would countless other young Europeans. According to data out on Monday more than 5.5 million under-25s are without work, and the number rises inexorably every month. It’s been called the “lost generation”, a legion of young, often highly qualified people, entering a so-called job market that offers very few any hope of a job – let alone the kind they have been educated for.
European leaders are rarely without a new initiative. Last week, they pledged to spend €6bn (£5bn) over two years to fund job creation, training and apprenticeships for young people in an attempt to counter a scourge that has attained historic proportions. This week, Angela Merkel is convening a jobs summit to address the issue. Yet still the numbers mount up. In Greece, 59.2% of under-25s are out of