As Europe Struggles, Young Job-Seekers Suffer Most

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"Let's be clear here, I am glad to go to university," he says. "However, it is the crisis that forced my decision ... I wanted to work but, at this time, whether one likes it or not, you have to study. What would I have done otherwise?"

Other European youths, unable to find jobs, also have sought sanctuary on college campuses. That is one reason the percentage of European youths who are part of the labor force — working or looking for work — dropped to 48.7 percent last year from 52.9 percent in 2000.

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British researchers Paul Gregg and Emma Tominey found in a 2005 study that British men who were unemployed for at least a year sometime from age 16 through age 23 were still suffering from a "wage penalty" at age 42: They earned 13 percent to 21 percent less than they would have if they hadn't been unemployed.

The damage is already widespread across Europe:

— ITALY

Alice Scazzoli, 23, graduated in June with a degree in languages from Bologna's state university. She's living with her parents and earns about $600 a month juggling three jobs — waiting restaurant tables, selling shoes and fabric at an open-air market and teaching English.

Fluent in Japanese, she's given up hope of earning a decent living in Italy and wants to save enough to move to Tokyo and look for work there. "Let's put it this way: The (job) possibilities were already scarce, and the crisis has eliminated even a lot of those," Scazzoli says.

Italy's unemployment rate of 10.2 percent is its highest since May 2000; for young adults, the rate is 35.2 percent.

— FRANCE

Adande has been unemployed or working odd jobs since graduating from the Sorbonne four years ago.

She dreams of starting a theater troupe. But "I don't see many opportunities in France," she says. The obstacles involved in starting a business are "very complicated ... especially if you don't have capital and don't have experience."

Adande is considering looking for work in Britain, Canada or Cameroon, where she has family. She figures she could return to France once she's acquired some experience. For now, she has moved back in with her mother in a Paris suburb.

"It makes me feel like I have failed in something," Adande says.

The unemployment rate in France is 10.2 percent; for young people, it's 22 percent. Both are the highest since 1999.

— SPAIN

For Fernandez, money is so tight she seldom uses her cell phone. She hopes to land a job selling magazines and newspapers. But if things don't improve by fall, Fernandez says she'll move in with her mother.

Another possibility: "I have some good friends who will always open their door for me. We are beginning to function like that now, through networks."

She sees young couples breaking up under the strain of a weak economy:

"When people that live together are forced to be together all the time with no money with which to do anything and with few entertainment options available, you can see relationships snapping and falling apart."

Spain's 24.3 percent unemployment rate is its highest on records dating to 1983. Youth unemployment is 51.5 percent.

— BRITAIN

Genevieve Walsh, 22, began receiving unemployment checks after graduating from college this year with a degree in politics and international relations — and $56,000 in debt.

"I was told to go to university because I'd get a good job and loads of money, whereas I've gone to university but haven't gotten a job and I owe loads of money," Walsh says. "Maybe I should have just left school at 16 and gotten an apprenticeship."

She's been applying for several jobs a week — retail, secretarial, sales, event planning, waitressing. But she feels caught in a vicious cycle: "You have to have experience to have a job. But no one is giving you experience so you can get a job."

Government job counselors have urged her to "dumb down" her resume, deemphasizing her university studies, to help land an entry-level job.

Unemployment is 8.1 percent; for young adults, it's 21.7 percent.

— GERMANY

Germany's unemployment rate is just 5.4 percent. The youth rate is 7.9 percent — lowest in Europe.