China / World

Spaniards seek El Dorado in Germany

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-08-07 08:16

BERLIN - Germany's solid job market has attracted tens of thousands of southern Europeans seeking an El Dorado while crisis strangles their home economies, but few view Europe's biggest economy as a permanent home.

As Spain, Portugal and Greece plunged into deep recession in the global financial crisis of 2008, unemployment rates urged, reaching 50 percent among the youth in Spain and Greece.

Faced with a glut of unfilled jobs in Germany, where the economy is booming and the working population is aging, Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2011 launched a call for young Spaniards to seek employment here.

In 2013, Berlin and Madrid signed a deal reserving 5,000 apprenticeship spots and full-time posts for Spanish school-leavers.

Between 2008 and 2015, more than 47,000 Spaniards and 27,500 Greeks aged 18 to 25 arrived in Germany seeking work, according to figures from Germany's statistics office Destatis.

But several years on, the immigration trend appears to be inversing.

The number of young Spaniards who have left Germany soared from 2,800 in 2012 to 4,300 in 2015, according to Destatis, as their home economy started to recover.

Albert del Barrio from Valencia was among those who benefited from Germany's welcome.

After a year's exchange program at a Prague university where he met his Italian girlfriend, he decided to move to Berlin, where "we can speak English" in his sector, he told AFP.

He found work quickly in a startup for smartphone industry marketing. "Clearly there are many more job opportunities in Germany," he said.

Some 600 kilometers to the south of Berlin, another Spanish national, 31-year-old Jose Ramon Avendano Fuentes is in an apprenticeship at an electricity firm.

The idea of trying his luck in Germany came from his employment agency in Albacete in 2014, after he failed to land a job at home.

"They told me that it's possible to find a job in Germany where they really need people," he said in halting German.

Since then, Fuentes has managed to integrate into life in Tacherting, a small southeastern village with 5,000 people located close to the Austrian border.

He now plays in a local orchestra and has no qualms about walking around in traditional Bavarian men's wear - lederhosen. "I have about 500 colleagues, most of them are great," he said.

But others feel less welcome and are returning to their home countries, disillusioned after struggling to settle in Germany, where they sometimes find themselves with precarious contracts.

Although the Spanish economy has been recovering, with growth expected to reach 3.1 percent this year, del Barrio acknowledged that the recovery remains fragile.

Agence France-presse

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