Portugal's Youth Feel the Pinch of A Harsh Economy


To Portugal's youth, the future looks grim.

With a huge debt crisis, the need for an IMF/EU bail-out, increasingly harsh austerity measures, and employment uncertainty, there is no reason to celebrate the future. This is the first big crisis to hit this generation, and things won't get any easier. There are three specific areas which affect people's pessimism: lack of hope for the future, lack of trust in politicians, and the harsh austerity measures imposed by the government.

As a member of this generation, and having had the experience of living both in Portugal and abroad for several years, there are a few considerations I would like to share with you, in order to provide a broader insight to three of the real problems of Portugal's youth. They can be classified as the "Three M's": Motivation, Mentality and Morals.

As to what concerns motivation, I must start by conceding that the demonstration held on March 12th was a big step in political action for Portugal’s young people. Between 200,000 and 300,000 people, mostly between the ages of 16 to 35, gathered in the center of Lisbon for a peaceful protest against job precariousness, low salaries, and very little social protection. However, this was a single day, and there was no immediate improvement in any of these matters. Conformism and powerlessness are two feelings which are deeply rooted in young people's hearts. For many it is hard to feel motivated when a university degree is not enough to find a reasonably-paid job. There must be a shift towards an increase in daily motivation to act through the channels provided by the current regime to work towards change and involvement in civil society and the country's political life.

Their mentality is also a problem, albeit not a new one. Many young people grew up thinking they were entitled to have a job just because they would one day have a degree and be automatically qualified to work in their area of choice. Unfortunately, that isn't true. There is an intrinsic pessimism regarding the future and an inferiority complex concerning the country, and recent events have done nothing to change it.

Concerning morals, this is a problem reflected in Portugal's political leaders. Values are gradually being detached from political life, and even when government members are caught deceiving the people, life goes on as if nothing wrong had happened. Even corrupt politicians manage to get re-elected. The example that is being set out is wrong, and unless change happens among the youth, through the rejection and condemning of unethical and damaging behavior by political leaders, things are not likely to improve.

Portugal's youths' future is seriously jeopardized by the country's deep economic problems, but I do believe that if change occurs in these Three M's, it may not be as dark as it could be.

Photo Credit: pedrosimoes7