Germany and Spain have signed a deal seeking to put 5,000 young Spaniards into German apprenticeships and other junior jobs each year. More than half of Spain's jobseekers aged 25 or younger have no work.
Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen enjoyed perhaps an easier journey to Madrid than some German ministers of late, greeted not by protests against Germany's role in advocating austerity measures, but rather with hope for a new plan seeking to reduce Spanish youth unemployment.
Von der Leyen and her Spanish counterpart Fatima Banez Garcia on Tuesday signed an agreement that aims to provide some 5,000 Spaniards under the age of 25 with work in Germany each year.
Officially, the deal is not legally binding and sets only shared targets for the two countries, but von der Leyen said that the 33,000 apprenticeships currently unfilled in Germany showed how industry would likely welcome the Spaniards "with open arms."
The Christian Democrat politician said that the deal showed that "together, we want to promote those measures that we already know to be effective," referring to a German system of combining practical workplace experience and theoretical classroom education for some students, especially those in the lowest stream of German secondary schools. Germany would try to help Spain build up such a system, von der Leyen said, adding that the key factor in doing so was "having businesses on board."
Losing a generation
Youth unemployment is becoming one of the most visible symptoms of the eurozone and the West's economic woes. In the EU, 23.5 percent of under-25's seeking a job - excluding those still in full-time education or otherwise engaged - do not have one.
In Spain, more than 55 percent of would-be workers under 25 are still looking for a job, the second-worst EU quota behind Greece. Germany, meanwhile, has a youth unemployment figure of just 7.6 percent, the best in the EU. The lengthy periods of time typically spent at university by German students, and a prevalence of quasi-employment options like internships, help partially explain this low figure.
Von der Leyen said in Madrid on Tuesday, however, that Germany showed there was a chance to reverse the unemployment trend, referring to the country's gradual improvement in employment figures since the post-reunification spike in joblessness in the 1990s.
"Ten years ago Germany was the sick man of Europe," von der Leyen recalled. "That shows that there is a way out of this."
Generating jobs for young people has also become an EU policy directive, with some six billion euros ($7.7 billion) sought for use towards this end between now and 2020.
msh/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)