Spa­niards find El Do­rado in Ger­many, but tem­po­rar­ily

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

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 in Spain and Greece among the youth. Faced with a glut of un­filled jobs in Ger­many, where the econ­omy is boom­ing and the work­ing pop­u­la­tion is age­ing, 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 full­time 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.

‘Ap­pren­tice­ship, leder­ho­sen’

Al­bert del Bar­rio from Va­len­cia was among those who ben­e­fited from Ger­many’s wel­come. After a year’s ex­change pro­gramme 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 start-up for smart­phone in­dus­try mar­ket­ing. “Clearly there are many more job op­por­tu­ni­ties in Ger­many,” he said. Some 600 kilo­me­tres (400 miles) 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 south-eastern 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.

‘We’re com­ing back’

But some are re­turn­ing to their home coun­tries, dis­il­lu­sioned after strug­gling to fit in in Ger­many, where they some­times find them­selves with pre­car­i­ous con­tracts. Even del Bar­rio and Fuentes, who have found what they were seek­ing in Ger­many, don’t see them­selves liv­ing here in the long run.

“I would like to stay an­other two or three years in Ger­many, but after, well, life can change a lot,” said Fuentes, who will fin­ish his job train­ing in Fe­bru­ary but is still wait­ing to land a full-time post.

Del Bar­rio is also eye­ing a re­turn to his home­land. 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.

Nev­er­the­less, he added: “I’m sure it will im­prove.” In fact, as more south­ern Euro­peans mull pack­ing their bags and head­ing home, some have even set up con­sult­ing ser­vices to help them ease back into their lo­cal job mar­kets. Se­bas­tian Sanz, co-founder of a Madrid­based help group called “Volve­mos” (“We’re com­ing back”), told AFP that there is an “enor­mous de­sire” from the part of Spa­niards to re­turn. Those who fail to find a foot­ing in Ger­many’s vi­tal en­gi­neer­ing or high-tech man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tries of­ten find them­selves hav­ing to re­ex­am­ine their am­bi­tions, he said. Some are in­creas­ingly “dis­il­lu­sioned” after spend­ing some time in the north, said Sanz, point­ing to nurses for in­stance, who he said found that they are “more val­ued in Spain than in Ger­many”.

Javier Alar­con is one of those who went back to Spain after four years in Ger­many with his wife and chil­dren. “We were alone there while our fam­i­lies were back in Spain. With two ba­bies, it just got too com­pli­cated,” Alar­con, who was a project leader in the Ger­man auto in­dus­try, told Ger­man pub­lic ra­dio. — AFP

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