Europe's Bleak Economy Spawns 'Lost Generation'

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BARCELONA, Spain -- Near Lisbon, Portugal, CBN News saw a locksmith cut the bolts off an apartment that was repossessed by the court and put new locks on the door.

The family was not home and seemed to have abandoned the place.

"If I was just evicting adults, it wouldn't be a problem for me," the locksmith, David Justino, said. "We are all adults and we have to deal with it."

"What is harder for me is when there are small children or disabled people," he added.

Over in Terrassa, Spain, outside of Barcelona, protestors tried to stop the eviction of a young family who fell behind on their mortgage.

"I want to work. I want to be able to pay a mortgage," the father said. 

What some call a recession is, in Spain, a full blown depression that is hitting young people and young families the hardest.

In Spain, the unemployment rate is 24.6 percent-- close to the level in the United States during the Great Depression. But the unemployment rate for Spaniards under the age of 25, is an incredible 53 percent, the highest in western Europe and higher than Greece.

That unemployment has created a "lost generation" of 20-somethings with very bleak prospects ahead of them.

Spain thought that adopting the euro would be the path to prosperity. But it is one of the European Union countries now being crushed by the euro. The one-size-fits-all nature of the currency is actually keeping the economy from recovering.

Spain's Brain Drain

On the outskirts of Barcelona, one can see the cemetery for Spain's shattered real estate bubble. Buildings once under construction are now abandoned; gravestones for a boom era that vanished.

The collapse of the real estate market pushed Spain over the edge and into depression.

Now, Barcelona blogger Santiago Perez runs a website called "The New Poor," where Spain's lost generation can share their struggles. His friend Eric Lluent has already decided to leave Spain for Iceland.

"We have no prospects. It is very difficult to plan your life here so we are now thinking of moving abroad," Lluent said. "It is paradoxical how the crisis has changed our points of view so fast and radically at once."

Judith Sants is an out of work agricultural engineer.

"I've been unemployed for 13 months now," she said. "Nowadays, things look so bad that I am contemplating the possibility of moving abroad. The way things look today, I am seriously thinking about it."

Alberto Rodriguez said when he finishes his MBA, he wants to move to London.

During the good economic times, Europeans assumed their lavish welfare state worked well. But a historic debt crisis, business failures, and high unemployment levels have created societies in which young people just starting out see no future for themselves; no way to start their careers.

Business Impossible

Many western European nations have made it hard, if not impossible, to be an entrepreneur.

In Paris, Clement Grandjean had so much trouble launching a business as a young entrepreneur, he started a Dilbert-style comic strip that makes fun of the business culture and government regulations in France.

He also wanted to reach out to other young struggling entrepreneurs and let them know that they're not alone.

While still working on his MBA, Grandjean was trying to set up a company to export French products to Japan

"I received a really, really expensive tax that I had to pay, even if I didn't make any profit," Grandjean explained.

"So we worked really hard and then the government asked for $2,000 each, just for creating the business, even if we earned zero dollars," he said. "So, we decided to stop the business before it became too expensive."

Grandjean considered leaving France but decided to stay and try to navigate the business culture.

Bankrupting a Generation

But polls have shown most French young people wouldn't even think of starting a business. They want lifetime government jobs.

All across Europe, the Lost Generation is angry for being handed a mess it didn't create.

Too many of them still live with their parents -- sometimes into their 40s, like Nuno Pinto in Portugal, who has thrown in the towel and filed for bankruptcy.

"I'm 40 years old and I'm living off my parents. That's my painful reality," Pinto said. "For that reason I'm here, to see if I can get what's my last chance, a personal bankruptcy."

When these are the prospects that young people have to looking forward to, it shows just how bad it has become for Europe's lost generation.

*Originally aired April 26, 2012.

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Dale Hurd

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A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at Facebook.com/DaleHurdNews.