Desperation, anger grows for Spanish youth, with 51 percent unemployed

Irena Arias
Irena Arias
CBS News

(CBS News) The American economic recovery is held hostage at the moment by a financial crisis in Europe. The 17 countries that use the euro currency are the largest economy in the world, but several are in trouble with debts they can't pay and banks that are failing due to reckless lending.

On Thursday, Spain's government debt was downgraded. Their many problems also include an astounding unemployment problem.

Javier Diaz never imagined that at age 25, he would still be living at home. He got a college degree in hopes of becoming a teacher, but he's been looking for two years.

"I thought I'm going to the university and I will finish my degree and then I will get a job," said Diaz, adding he's been sending his resume "to all the schools in Madrid, the cities around."

At this point, Diaz said he would take a job at McDonalds.

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About 51 percent of Spaniards under age 25 are unemployed, the worst in Europe. That's 1.5 millino young people. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in angry protest; their slogan says it all: "If you take away our dreams, we will not let you sleep."

They've come to the job market at a time when Spanish banks are on the brink and businesses are folding daily, and they're angry that reckless lending during the boom years has meant they pay the price for a crisis they didn't create.

This is the most educated generation that Spain has ever produced, but many recent graduates feel that they've been trained for a world that simply no longer exists here. In fact, the situation has become so bad that according to a recent survey, 68 percent of young people are now willing to move to another country to find work.

Irena Arias, 26, lost her job producing commercials two weeks ago.

"You can stay here, cry, don't do anything or you can go away go to another country, try to get a job there," Arias said, adding she's only giving herself a few more months before she job hunts in another country.

Diaz is also thinking of leaving Spain. For his mother, Isadora, that's a painful prospect.

"With this life you cannot see a future for the young", she said. "Not in this country"

For now, Diaz makes a little extra cash giving karate lessons four hours a week -- fighting to keep his dreams of being a teacher alive.

  • Clarissa Ward
    Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News