Everything seems impossible until it is done

Who are supposed to be the ‘climate-change refugees’? ‘Climate-change refugees’ or so called ‘environmental migrants’ are people who are forced to leave their home towns either temporarily or permanently due to sudden or progressive climate changes which compromise their well being and secure livelihood.

These changes may include increased droughts, desertification, sea revel rise, disruption of seasonal weather patterns such as monsoons, etc. Human activities like burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests contribute to global warming because they release greenhouse gases. Rising temperatures associated with global warming cause glaciers and ice caps to melt, which lead to droughts and desertification – the transformation of arable land to desert. These effects make it completely impossible for people in the region to feet on the crops and they are forced consequently to roam the world to look for better lives.    

Unlike the refugees who flee their homes due to conflict or political oppression, ‘climate-change refugees’ are not protected by international laws and may face greater political risks.

Unlike the refugees who flee their homes due to conflict or political oppression, ‘climate-change refugees’ are not protected by international laws and may face greater political risks. You have to admit, the word “refugees” should not be used in consideration of these people. It’s not them on whom we have to put the blame, because that is nature which caused it.

Nowadays, the problem of migrants is causing a great deal of wrangling in the whole world, including Europe. The European Commission has taken a comprehensive approach to tackle the refugee crisis in Europe, drawing on the various tools and instruments available at the EU level and in the member states. The European Commission gathers periodically at the summit to discuss these contemporary issues and to take corresponding measures. Statistics indicate that the number of migrants crossing Europe illegally by land and sea in 2015 has passed over one million. Of course, not all of them can be called the ‘climate-change refugees’. Some of them may migrate due to social instabilities, such as the terror attacks and the wars in the central and the Western Asia, although some people are migrating, simply because of the climate changes.Then what are the biggest challenges that ‘climate-change refugees’ are facing?

Firstly, wherever people happen to land, there would be significant traditional, cultural and religious differences. To adapt to the afterward circumstances, they would need sizeable amount of time. For example, if one has moved from Western Asia to Eastern Europe, traditional customs will have changed, from greeting others to food culture. This would affect everyone including youngsters and the next generations, trying successfully or not so to integrate into their new cultures.

Another challenge could be finding suitable jobs or finding themselves a place in the workforce.  Currently, migrant workers accounts for 150 million of the world’s approximately 232 million international migrants. Migrant workers contribute to the growth and develop in their countries of destination.
Especially having in mind the rising unemployment rate in the countries where they decide to reside. Furthermore, migration and the resulting unemployment rate have been one of the major issues in the traditional, as well as contemporary global economic scenario. And some criminal activities like robberies, thefts and various negative behaviors by unemployed migrants might arise and will disturb the public order in certain countries. To prevent these, the chances have to be given for refugees to be employed after the specific education system.

When properly managed, the refugees may have far-reaching potentials and their communities as well.

As Nelson Mandela, one of the most famous politicians said “Everything seems impossible until it is done”, other problems and challenges could occur that we might face. Yet we, as human beings have responsibilities to protect the refugees. When properly managed, the refugees may have far-reaching potentials and their communities as well. And consequently they would serve as part of the society which contributes for the economic growth of the country, overcoming ethnic differences and winning the fight for position among other people.


About the author:

Ri Kang Song (16) took part in the My Europe Workshop in Sofia on 28-29 November 2016 and won the fifth prize of the writing competition.

“I Still Have the Dream to Go Home One Day”

Two women sitting near the Black Lake, Montenegro, Spotlight Europe
Two different ladies with a different background – yet they both still long for their home countries. (Flickr: amira_a/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Clara: Where are you from? How long do you already live in Germany? What motivated you to come?

Biljana: Originally, I am from Kosovo. I fled to Germany about 15 years ago, due to war in my country. It wasn’t safe anymore for me in my home country.

Karina: I am from Montenegro. My husband and I were pursued due to our political convictions and so we decided to flee to Germany about 17 years ago.

Clara: How did you come?

Biljana: Since I had the right to come to Germany as a war refugee, I came by plane. Although I came legally, the bureaucratic process was really hard and took me an enormous amount of effort and time.

Karina: I am what you can call an illegal immigrant, but actually, once I arrived, we were all treated the same way. For me, the bureaucratic process was also really tough. Since we were classified as numbers, we felt quite humiliated. We kind of feared the administration, because they could decide if you stay or if you have to return where you came from. At that time, I always feared opening my mailbox, because I thought there could be a letter telling me I have to go back. And I know I wasn’t the only one having that fear.

Clara: Have you had difficulties with the language?

Biljana: The switch from Montenegrin to German was really difficult, because both languages are quite different. I still have some difficulties nowadays, although I have lived here for 15 years now. Additionally it was not mandatory to learn German at that time as it is now. There weren’t free German courses. We had to learn everything on our own.

Clara: What was your economic situation before you came? How did it change?

Karina: In fact, I had a good life: I liked my city, I liked my job and I had a good income. When I arrived in Germany, everything changed for me. Although the German and Montenegrin cultures weren’t so different, I couldn’t speak German and therefore I was only able to do the most basic jobs. That was a big economic and professional crash for me.

Clara: How did the Germans receive you?

Karina: In fact, the Germans were quite different. There were Germans who were very nice to me. They gave me help and shelter and they helped me to integrate.

Biljana: There were also people who weren’t nice. One day my son was on a school excursion and there was one bed, which was broken and nobody wanted to sleep on it. So, the teacher decided, that my son had to sleep there, although there was no reason except for the fact that he was a refugee.

Clara: Was it worth for you to come to Germany?

Karina: Yes, I think so. I still have the dream to go home one day, but my children live here and I am quite integrated today. So I can say, I have a new and normal life, which I definitely wouldn’t have had if I had stayed in Kosovo.

Biljana: If you ask me, I’m still not sure, if it was worth it. I still dream a lot of my home country and I still want to go back there. But it was not possible to stay in Montenegro during the war. And so things happened like they did. I can’t change it today. But sometimes I regret having left my home country.

About the interviewer:
Picture Clara Hachmann_small, Spotlight Europe

Clara (18) participated at the My Europe workshop in Munich, Germany, in 2013. She is involved in the work with the Youth Council for the Future.

Laura G. from Madrid

Call- button with a nurse figure on it, Spotlight Europe
Laura found a job as a nurse in Germany – a profession still demanded there. (Flickr: Nat/licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Due to great unemployment among the youth, many young people from Spain have decided to come to Germany to find a job. Laura G. (name changed as requested) is a young women from Madrid, who was fed up of not finding a job in her home country and decided to try her luck in Germany. She agreed to share her experience with me in this interview:

Clara: What motivated you to move to Germany?

Laura: After finishing my schooling to become a nurse, I waited two years for a job in Spain. A friend of mine (also a nurse) had already moved to Germany and told me there was still work left. As I couldn’t wait for a job any longer, I decided to move to Germany.

Clara: How did you get to Germany?

Laura: I saw an announcement on the web, proposing such a travel. First I contacted a company in Spain, which then contacted a company in Munich. I worked in this temporary employment agency in Munich as a nurse for a year, then changed for a private hospital. The whole organisation of this change cost me a lot of effort and time.

Clara: Did you have great difficulties with the language?

Laura: Since I’ve never learned German at school or anywhere else while I was in Spain, it surely was quite difficult. I began to have German classes three weeks before my departure, but it wasn’t enough.

Clara: Has your move been a big change in your life?

Laura: Yes, since I moved alone. My whole family still lives in Spain and even though the support they give me, I miss them a lot. Also, you have here a different culture, different weather…

Clara: Do you feel integrated now?

Laura: The people are really nice here and give their best to make me feel integrated, but since my German isn’t that good, I cannot say that I am perfectly integrated now. I can’t go to the Bank, the doctor or the hairdresser without having difficulties to express myself and I think if you really want to feel integrated you have to do all these things without major difficulties.

Clara: Was it worth it?

Laura: It surely was worth it! I now have a great job with great colleagues and friends. I am really satisfied with my decision to move here!

This interview was translated from German to English

About the interviewer:
Picture Clara Hachmann_small, Spotlight Europe

Clara (18) participated at the My Europe workshop in Munich, Germany, in 2013. She is involved in the work with the Youth Council for the Future.

Unemployment in Switzerland

A girl talking to a HR woman at a career fair, Spotlight Europe
“Only one out of five enterprises provides apprenticeships.” (Flickr: Mays Business School/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In a  new series on Spotlight Europe three young Europeans depict the employment situation in their home countries. You´ll find the intro here or go to First part, Second Part.

In August 2014 Switzerland had a 3 % unemployment rate. That means that compared to December 2013 the unemployment rate decreased from 3.5 % to 3 %. After the world economic crisis in 2008, the unemployment rate reached its peak in December 2009 at 4.4 %. After decreasing in 2011 to 2.6 % the rate is now rather high again. Those numbers seem really small compared to other countries. Yet the youth unemployment rate differs a lot. In 2013 10.4 % of young persons were unemployed. And as many as 16 % of foreign adolescents were unemployed. That is more than in Germany (8.8 %) or Austria (9.4 %) in the same year. What are the reasons for Switzerland youth unemployment and what are the attempts to improve this rate?

Although the educational level of the youth is high, the standards for jobs are often even higher. In Switzerland the retirement age is 64 for women and 65 for men. Because of the global economic crisis, the growth of jobs stagnated, and because the Swiss work up to a high age, the rate of youth unemployment grew during the last years.

HR staff checking applications, Spotlight Europe
Only few positions are being offered. Enterprises can pick their candidates freely. (Flickr: Alan Cleaver/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Switzerland has a binary education system. But only one out of five enterprises provides apprenticeships. Given that the offer of apprenticeships should be 15 – 20 % more than the need, this is not enough. But those factors do not explain the even higher number of foreign unemployed adolescents. Due to many applications the director of an enterprise can chose who he wants to hire. Unfortunately many Swiss are not free of prejudice, it is often enough to have a name which sounds outlandish, to not get the job. This sort of discrimination against other cultures is inadmissible. Especially because foreigners are in general very well integrated and an important part of our society.

“Solid education must be accessible.”

In order to reduce youth unemployment or unemployment in general, there are already plenty of good approaches. First of all the government should not try to economise in the educational sector. A solid education even after basic education must be accessible for everyone. Furthermore governmental work orders should be distributed to enterprises, which provide apprenticeships. This should encourage employers to hire the younger generation. Switzerland should furthermore introduce a minimum wage in the general employment contracts of apprentices. This would avoid exploitation.

Fortunately the job market in Switzerland is still relatively strong. But, as we have seen, it is often the youth who comes off second best. Requirements and hence the pressure get higher. Now is the time to go against that by also giving young people a chance to enter in the job market.

About the author:
Picture Jeannie Schneider, Spotlight Europe
Jeannie – Author at Spotlight Europe

Jeannie (18) participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2013. She is a member of the Youth Council for the Future.

Italy: A Nation on Hold Losing Its Youth

Woman walking, Spotlight Europe
How will Italy manage to improve its labour market when its high-qualified youth sees no perspective in their country and looks for jobs elsewhere? A brain-drain threats the Italian economy. (Flickr: infradept/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In a  new series on Spotlight Europe three young Europeans depict the employment situation in their home countries. You´ll find the intro here or go to First part.

Italy is the third largest economy in the Eurozone, but unfortunately it has a history of underperforming. The total growth of the economy since the euro was introduced and 10 years before that is approximately none.

Regarding one of the most urgent issues in the country, unemployment, it is fundamental to underline how the economic crisis and the austerity policies have heightened existing national problems. The situation is critical especially for the youngest generations.

The unemployment rate among the 18-24 year olds reached 42 % in 2014, compared to the national rate of 12,6 %; the younger generations are victims of an eradicated system that characterizes their country.

The generation conflict
“You are not considered experienced based on your CV, but based on your age.”

Italy has always suffered under a hierarchical system, with the young deferring to authority until it’s their time to take control. The Italian ruling class is Europe’s oldest: the average bank chief executive is 69 years old; court presidents 65; and university professors are on average 63.

“You are not considered experienced based on your CV, on your ability or according to your skills, but just based on your age,” says Federico Soldani, 37, an epidemiologist who left Pisa in 2000 and now works in Washington, D.C., for the Food and Drug Administration. “When you are under 40, you are considered young.” This typical Italian system has worked until the crisis hit and the economy froze in the last years.

A country of emigrants

These socio-economic and political disparities between generations lead to negative consequences, leaving emigration as the only option for many young Italians. As a result, Italy will have to face a major brain drain, which will negatively influence innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment, all of which are key drivers of economic growth.

Young professionals preparing a presentation, Spotlight Europe
Many young Italians decide for a career in another country. (Flickr: Detail, Novartis AG/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It is interesting to observe how history repeats itself, Italy is a nation of emigrants like 100 years ago, but this time it is mostly young students and unemployed graduates that leave their country in search of possibilities. Italy is losing its potential saviors.

In 2013 almost 100,000 Italians left their country, the top destination was England, followed by Germany, Switzerland, France and also Australia. A growth of emigrants of 71.5 % in only one year highlights the country’s failure in tackling unemployment.

The major causes behind the big emigration flow are: low salaries, indifference of politicians to the problems, unrewarding educational process, gerontocracy, lack of jobs, lack of trust in politics, welfare system.

It is time to act

What are the next steps? Will the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi be able to tackle unemployment and, most importantly, efficiently reform the labor market?

There are some lessons to be learnt from the crisis. Renzi made some broad proposals to extend jobless benefits, cut the number of short-term contracts, boost the role of employment agencies and reduce job protection for permanent workers.

The solution lies in a reform of the entrance in the labor market by modifying different factors.

Italian Prime MInister Matteo Renzi, Spotlight Europe
Calls for the reformation of the Italian labour market: Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. (Flickr: Palazzo Chigi/licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

First, internships and apprenticeships, which in Italy are underused and mostly misused, creating an “official black market”, should be developed and regulated. They could help improve the preparation and education of students, giving them the practical knowledge they are lacking, due to a mainly theoretical approach of the education system. Internships and apprenticeships are essential to build a necessary bridge between the education system and labor market. It is important to stop abuses and assure that internships have a formative content, in order to avoid them from becoming underpaid working contracts. Another aspect of the problem is the never ending paperwork, to hire an apprendista or trainee, the employer has to apply to 12 separate offices.

Secondly, a reform of the contracts and the Italian legal framework is necessary. Currently there are more than 40 different types of temporary and permanent contracts in Italy. The Biagi law (L 30/2003) has created a labor market based on temporary and short-term contracts. Temporary contracts are often cheaper than permanent ones, lower taxes, lower social security, less bureaucracy. To solve the hiatus between temporary and permanent contracts, it would be helpful to make the tax costs equal for both and allow incentives for permanent contracts in order to reverse the current situation.

“Flexibility without security is just going to worsen the situation.”

The major debate has been on the article 18 of the workers’ Statute, which protects workers from unfair dismissal. While some believe this article is fundamental to protect workers, others, included Renzi, believe it is an obstacle to flexibility in the labor market and it decreases entrepreneurs’ freedom in hiring and firing employees.

The solution isn’t that simple, the labor reform or Jobs act should be strictly connected to the unemployment insurance system reform. The insurance system should involve all workers and not only a small part of them, the job search assistance should be strengthened and re-skilling should be an important part of job searching, giving unemployed people benefits isn’t going to solve their problems.

In other terms, flexibility without security is just going to worsen the situation.

“It is majorly hard to make the decision to leave Italy knowing that you probably won’t come back.”

In an open letter to his son published in November 2013, Pier Luigi Celli, director general of Rome’s LUISS University, one of Italy’s distinguished universities, wrote, “This country, your country, is no longer a place where it’s possible to stay with pride… That’s why, with my heart suffering more than ever, my advice is that you, having finished your studies, take the road abroad. Choose to go where they still value loyalty, respect and the recognition of merit and results.”

This is a sad statement that reflects reality, leaving your country, your family and your loved ones should be a choice and not an obligation.

It is majorly hard to make the decision to leave Italy knowing that you probably won’t come back and you won’t contribute to change the country’s future.

What choice would you make as an Italian unemployed graduate?


About the author:

APicture Alessandra Maffettonelessandra (22) is Chairwoman of the Youth Council for the Future (YCF). She is involved with the “My Europe” Initiative since 2012.


Austria’s Unemployment Situation

Job advertisements in a newspaper, Spotlight Europe
Looking for jobs. (Flickr: photologue_np/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

In a  new series on Spotlight Europe three young Europeans depict the employment situation in their home countries. You´ll find the intro here.

In summer 2014, the Austrians prided themselves on having the lowest unemployment rate in the entire European Union. However, the time of contentedness is over. Since last September, the number of unemployed citizens increased by 9.9 % – a quite enormous number. Although the unemployment rate is still very low compared to other European countries, this trend has to be stopped.

This increase is very extreme in different areas of work and social classes. Unfortunately, since the release of the last “My Europe” Manifesto in November 2013, nothing has changed about the problems that immigrants still have when they are searching for a post. This obviously has its roots in the social stand of foreigners. However, social integration is not only a responsibility of society. National promotion is as much needed as social acceptance. Compared to last year, the rate of unemployed immigrants has increased by 23.1 %. Furthermore, the deficiency of jobs older people are taken for is alarming.

“The time of contentedness is over.”

Not that the job market would not be attractive enough. Elders at a 50 plus age usually get overlooked by the employers either for reasons of age or for reasons of experience. Alas the real experience gets lost by this decision, since elder workers rather have experience in the areas of work they used to work in. Another problematic case is the situation of people that are suffering from a disability. The Austrian government is planning to start social inclusion by focussing on individual support and promotion for different projects on the job market.

To sum up, the unemployment problem in Austria will not be solved in a very short time, because the different sections of the population that suffer from unemployment are not only out of a job for economic reasons, but also because of social deplorable state of affairs. Our solutions cannot stop at interpersonal matters; they have to go beyond them.

About the author:
Picture Karl Maximilian Weber , Spotlight Europe
Karl Maximilian – Author at Spotlight Europe

Karl Maximilian (17) participated in the My Europe workshop in Vienna and is member of the working group “Employment” of the Youth Council for the Future.