An unprecedented number of migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East have headed for Europe this year in their quest for safety and prosperity. Yet for almost a quarter of its youths, the continent is no wonderland.
On average, 23 percent of Europeans aged between 18 and 24 years old are contemplating moving to another country to escape the financial situation at home, according to a report by Intrum Justitia, Europe’s biggest debt collector.
“What our survey shows is that many young people in several parts of Europe are considering moving to other countries and that is sad since it indicates that many young people lack hope for their economic future, Erik Forsberg, Intrum Justitia’s acting chief executive officer, said in the report. Still, the refugees who are escaping violent conflicts and coming to Europe “is another, much more acute problem,” he said.
What’s perhaps no coincidence, some of the highest percentages in the survey involve countries that have been the least welcoming of refugees.
Hungary, which built a razor-wire fence along its southern border to keep them out, topped the survey list with 60 percent of its young people considering a move. Poland and Slovakia, both unhappy with redistributing refugees across the EU, followed with 41 and 40 percent, respectively. The percentage of those considering a move abroad was also well above 30 percent in Italy, Portugal and Greece, according to the company’s European Consumer Payment Report, which surveyed 22,400 people in 21 countries.
Those numbers correlate closely with national youth unemployment rates. They underscore the quandary facing many EU nations — particularly those still grappling with the fallout from Europe’s debt crisis — when it comes to dealing with the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers arriving from Syria and other war zones in the Middle East.
Some of their governments tend to justify their reluctance to welcome refugees by arguing that they already have enough to cope with trying to provide for their own citizens. At around 21 percent, the average unemployment rate for Europeans under the age of 25 is double the overall jobless rate for the 28-member bloc.
While 67 percent of those surveyed said they had “a reasonable chance of substantially improving their economic situation in life,” 17 percent see no prospect of a better life. One in five of those polled expect their children to be worse off financially.
“It is alarming that the young Europeans have so little confidence in their future,” Forsberg said. “The good side of it is that so many of Europe’s young are prepared to take action to improve their situation. But it is of course a big concern for a number of European countries that the young generation who is needed to secure future growth and development considers leaving to other countries.”
The picture improves in Scandinavia and Europe’s German- speaking countries. Those with the smallest percentage of youths seeking to move are Germany, at 6 percent, Sweden and Denmark, both on 8 percent, and Austria, Norway and Switzerland, on 12 percent.