The unemployment rate in the EU reached a record high of 10.7% in November 2012, according to figures published earlier this week by eurostat. Youth unemployment, in particular, has been consistently gloomy since the beginning of the crisis, with almost 1 in 4 young people in the European Union now out of work.

Youth unemployment was highest in Greece (57.6%) and Spain (56.5%), and last year we had a comment sent in from a young Spanish jobseeker, Javier, who  told a depressing (but perhaps all too common) story:

My personal experience is that I could not find a job so I continued to study. Now, I had a job interview two days ago and I was told that my CV is ‘intimidating’, and that I know ‘too much’. So with studies or without studies, we are screwed…

We decided to put this comment to Santiago Fisas Ayxela, an MEP with the centre-right European People’s Party group, to see how he would respond to Javier:

It’s true, there is a huge problem. We have a generation with very, very high-levels of studies, and it’s always very frustrating for these young people to have studied for so long and to be so well prepared, and then not to have a job, or to have a job that doesn’t correspond to their expectations and the studies they have developed. But I would say to Javier to be confident. We are in a very tough situation in Europe with this crisis, especially in Spain, but I really believe that European governments and the EU Commission are taking the right decisions.

We also had the opportunity to put Javier’s comment to Mady Delvaux-Stehres, Luxembourg’s Minister for National Education and Professional Training (it’s worth pointing out that Luxembourg has one of the lowest unemployment  rates in the EU, at only 5.1%). How would she respond?

In fact, eurostat figures suggest that higher education does pay off for young people. Unemployment rates tend to decrease as levels of educational attainment increase, and graduates that have completed tertiary education take, on average, half as long to find a relevant job as those with only a primary or lower secondary education.

Is there a problem, though, with the types of courses that Europeans are choosing to study? Nikolai, for example, asks whether we should be encouraging more young people to study science, engineering and other so-called “hard subjects”, instead of humanities and (his personal pet-peeve) business management studies:

When encouraging people to stay in higher education, we have to ask, is there any need for [so many business management degree holders] when we are not attracting enough people into sciences to fulfill the needs of society? The sheer number of business management degree holders (and similar) makes that degree completely useless – I know as one of two degrees I hold is business management.  The other is civil engineering and has been much more use in life.

How would Minister Delvaux-Stehres respond?

What do YOU think? If you’re a young person in Europe with a university degree, has your degree helped you find a job? Or are you now “too qualified”? And are too many young people choosing to study so-called “soft” subjects (such as business management) at the expense of degrees in subjects such as science and engineering? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

51 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar

    I believe that youngsters as me must understand that just studying is not enough. Although there are some fields, such as computer engineering, that work otherwise, it is imperative to combine studies with some practical experience, and the best way to achieve that is by volunteering. I can not emphasize the importance of volunteering and how much it can help you for the future. You learn how to organize your time, how to write or manage a project, how to make a PR campaign, there is something to learn for everyone.

  2. avatar
    Yves Wampach

    These times are certainly not the best on the labour market, especially for young graduates without experience. Still there are some websites, which facilitates the recruitment process for university students like the following for instance.
    So don’t give up hope.

  3. avatar

    I have a cum laude BA, an MA and an LLM and am now completely lost in life. This is a very common 20-something affliction, I know, but the limited number of opportunities out there combined with the harsh judgment my CV is exposed to does not make it easy for me to find suitable work. My sector (public service/NGO) has become extremely competitive to a degree where it’s become a little (too) intimidating, so after three unpaid internships didn’t pay off (in terms of finding suitable work) I decided to cut my losses and look for work outside of my sector. There, however, I’m met with the typical overqualified/too ambitious/no work experience response. So it seems that whichever way I turn, I simply cannot move forward and am left stuck right back where I started. I feel stiffed, as I’ve always worked hard and deemed myself competent, gotten good grades, participated in tons of extracurricular activities- and now I feel useless, incompetent and lost. This crisis has not only robbed me of suitable work opportunities, but also of a sense of purpose and opportunity to further enhance my learning and personal development in a good working environment.

  4. avatar
    Michel Hoffmann

    Now am still wondering why NGOs and other organizations still lack the ability to work more together on solving the issue; looking at unemployment rates and open job positions that are in every daily newspaper I guess all together this problem shall be solved in the future!

    • avatar

      Hombre que estuviste a estudiar?

  5. avatar
    Samo Košmrlj

    the trouble with all the open job positions is that they require people with 2 or more years of experience in the exactly same position. of course there is few people with that exact profile and mostly changing the job from company to company involves some risk, which people generally dont like taking. so on one hand you have people who are looking for their first employment, who can not have much experience, on the other hand you have job openings, that are open for months

  6. avatar
    Alejandra Morales

    Yes, it helped me a lot…But also because I have 3 degrees, and I
    worked as intern at the same time.I didnt stop a single second and had to say the so called “No I cannot” to many things I liked -including social life of course. My conclusion is that one has to make much effort to meet his goals, have willpower, and always believe that, at the end, things will work. Being positive helps us keep passion, and passion work better. I also know that life is sometimes a question of luck, but also that one has look for it.
    The best is to keep one’s smile and be confident about the future!

  7. avatar
    Pantelis Grigoriadis

    A degree surely opens you more doors but there are other factors that contribute in finding a job like experience and sometimes luck

  8. avatar

    I’m a student and I hope I achieve my prior goal, a degree, by the end of this year. I’m still optimistic even though unemployment figures don’t encourage in that sense. I do take into consideration some “no” but obstacles can’t stop from trying. If I try again and again, sooner or later something will come along.

  9. avatar
    Ankit Khandelwal

    I dont think so, there are more facotrs just than degree. Like language, team working, communication skills, global mindset.. Such things cant be provided by degree. We have to extra for them :)

  10. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    normally they would…but they need to be the right ones for a changing European Economy… In the future, if Europe becomes more “green” and innovative, there will be many new jobs in offer… How many Europeans have degrees for them? We need to reform first the European education system, before we reform the European economy.. Otherwise we will have people with too many degrees, but no jobs on what they studied to find work as their countries’ economies will change dramatically… so a degree helps you find work alright, if there are jobs in offer of what you study… if not, then it’s just a fancy paper hanging from the wall…

  11. avatar
    Tareq Hajaj

    If the educational system is not dictated by science progress and economy, any degree is worthless.
    Education should be more dynamic i think..

  12. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    A degree should ensure an available job normally,if it is not concerning a too spesific and technique or traditional branch of economy.But the jobs depend on to Goverments anyway, at least for a licence.But the immoral Goverment administrators and businessmen spoil labour market usually.Because if there is not a legal reason for the make money, the circulatory of production spoils as steady.For example what if i had have earned my money as the outcome of my right cases, i would have invested my job and i would have employed other lawyers also. But I’m an unemployed right now, instead of oneself Guido Raimondi who the Vice President of ECHR with Ali Alkan who the President of Court of Cassation of Turkey made money from the my job and the money stuffed in a secret bank. ?n the outcome did not create any job for other people. Only money stock increased.

  13. avatar
    Cristina M. Saragoça

    I think you should set goals to be achieve and then establish a way to accomplish them. A degree can be one step towards that goal, but it is not the goal in itself, just a way as any other tools you should have, as emotional intelligence and determination and some luck, yes! :)
    Therefore, you should persue the studies that best suits you!

  14. avatar
    Albert Saxén

    No, absolutely not.
    This is..perhaps not the oldest, and, no ..certainly not a trick in the book ..needless to say, a degree shld contain the education, what went into it. towards it. to achieving/attaining that degree.
    Well, it doesnt.
    Then, and more pertinently, this is why ..classic dilemma w a PhD. Yea, it’s gd to specialize. Is it? Then you wld be called upon only for that ..

  15. avatar
    Albert Saxén

    Alejandra buen :P buena
    That’s like Think Young’s .. Churchill: success is going from failure to failure w/out losing enthusiasm ..yea, well is nice to have a bit of success every now n then.
    Haris , ANkit, Pantelis ;) ya, proved. :) exactly.

  16. avatar
    Albert Saxén

    It is not so much even a question of ..yes,there is the jobs divide (rather d/connect?) There is nothing wrong with the system (in the U.S., yes, there the public school system is in dire straits).
    Tarq here we an important point. Dynamic ..but in the methods, rather, of teaching.
    in the methods of delivery.
    I mean I love education. If taxes is my no.1 issue this ..comes a close 2nd. Any and all ed is gd. Much the same w business.What it boils down to is the dynamiscs b/ween teacher and student. The finest schools even the fanciest gizmos, gadgets ..widgets :p devices, teaching tools will not help if the will to learn is not there.
    A teacher can make or break a subject. You know?

  17. avatar
    Albert Saxén

    Teaching absolutely is the noblest profession in the world..and many of them are underpaid.
    however, we cld argue .. how do we pay them more if education is free..

    lol Christina I was going to say luck up there in the TY’s ex: ..

  18. avatar
    catherine bennin

    It all depends on the ultimate goal. If you want a position that requires a degree as in Law, Medics, Science, Vet, Teaching, etc., then it is a necesssity and you cannot get experience without one. And the higher you get the better your opportunity.

    However, if you intend and lean more toward, the Arts, Mechanics, Engineering, IT, then you have to choose wisely for a hands on experienced based background. As a degree alone will not open the door to the next step. The more hands on experience you have on any of these subjects will determine whether you get your nose in the door.

    Being prepared to work voluntarily to get a foot in is another way to expand your brief. In the UK this is undertaken in Law, Politics and various other hard to get consideration for unless you have a relative or friend to give a leg up. Which is aways a plus. Maybe not fair, but, it is a fact that has to be faced, without resentment. Life isn’t fair, accept it at face value.

    If you show initiative, formal education is far less important than dedication. However, the best single lesson you need is a good vocabulary and full comprehension of how to get clearly across your ability and drive. Without that, it doesn’t matter how many pieces of paper you have saying you passed an exam, if you look and sound inarticulate, unkempt, gormless and insincere, you will be passed over. Even for a job that simply asks you to wait on a table in a restaurant.

  19. avatar

    A degree helps, but obviously is not enough. I have a job, but only because I had experience with project management gained through volunteering for 5 years. Also, it is really hard to finish your studies once you start working, and it’s impossible to study without money, so you need to work. It is a vicious circle that made me postpone my MA and I am really angry about it.

  20. avatar
    Marco Silva

    Against facts, there are no arguments. Yes, degrees help European youth to find jobs. The 2011 graph by Eurostat illustrates it clearly.,_2011_(%25).png&filetimestamp=20120502102346

    Nevertheless, the number of unemployed graduates has never been so high. So, this condition does make many think that degrees are useless. That said, I would like to develop further on what has been said about the alignment between the educational system and the economic market.

    Following Peter Schellinck’s thought, we need to bridge the gap between education and market. How to make that happen? Well, I think that universities should take one of the following approaches: 1. either deliver programmes which meet the market demand within 3 to 5 years, or 2. develop programmes which generate new professions, focus on entrepreneurship and research and development. In the first case, the set of degrees and their curriculum shall be defined based on market trends, while in the second approach the development and research shall be based on socio-political visions (lacking at national level) . In both cases, high level of adaptation for educational professionals and alike is mandatory. Our ICT-based globalized reality does not standstill but evolves increasingly fast.

    Neither of these approaches seem to be adopted by the current educational systems we find in Europe. Perhaps we find a combination of both in the Nordics when analyzing the degrees offered in different Universities (Bologna system is only about mobilization so far).

    Most likely many say that choosing what to study is a inherent right of people and governments should not make that decision for them. I agree, until a certain extent tough. Isn’t getting a job which allows a person to develop and sustain herself and contribute for a better society a right as well? That’s what many have protested for.

    Back to my main point. Defined what approach to take, the ministries of educations should then set limits for the number of places in certain areas of study (,_2010_(1).png&filetimestamp=20121001110122) and create proper primary and secondary educational environments that bring students closer to prosper areas demystifying certain paramount subjects (

    Lastly and shortly, another topic, the future consequences of this economical crisis in education. I would like to emphasize the potential negative impact that such unemployment rates will have in the rates of tertiary educated population in the coming years. As shown in this graph (,_2011_(1)_(%25).png&filetimestamp=20121001110017) in many EU countries the rate of degree holders is quite low and, based on,_seasonally_adjusted,_November_2012.png&filetimestamp=20130108083515 we realize that some of these match with high level of national unemployment. Many families whose parents are unemployed can not afford the expenses associated to education of their children (minimum salary in PT is 465 Euros and academic tuition fess around 1000 Euros/year, e.g.) . That, associated to the fact that many social subsidies were cut . The sad result is obvious!

    So, if you are decided to study further, choose wisely. Look ahead and globally!

  21. avatar

    Looking at this through the skewed prism of the UK experience… I don’t think they mean as much as they did.

    This is perhaps as much to do with the recent emphasis on increased numbers of graduates as it is with the crisis. Not so long ago the numbers of people who went to university and got degrees was much lower than it is today therefore graduates were at more of a premium. What we have now is more graduates with a much wider variety of degrees, so the cache of having a degree, as far as the jobs market is concerned, has shifted so it is no longer the be all and end all.

    Unfortunately, I feel, this increase in the numbers of graduates was more in response to a lack of other options, good apprenticeships today are as rare as hens teeth, as my mum would say! We don’t have the industries that gave us apprenticeships so people who would’ve gone on to be apprentices have today have gone to university, people like me I think. Naturally the larger numbers of people going to university meant that they could now cater to other courses in the spirit of competition and this is what eventually led to degrees like ‘Golf Course Management’ and a multitude of other sins.

    I pass no judgement, anyone who is capable should be able to get a degree, but unfortunately we all have to take into account the whims of the market, perhaps before doing a degree it is now more important than ever to ask the question “what job will it get me”. That is until people see the light and we can setup a utopian Marxist planned economy.

    Personally I think those of us unfortunate enough not to land the job we desire first time round should take the long view, the crisis won’t last forever after all, and in the meantime perhaps aim for ‘similar’ roles (defining that is beyond the scope of this comment I’m afraid, take it or leave it). And at the very worst put it on ice and just try to keep the dream alive.

  22. avatar

    “Bologna” turned Eu higher education into a babysitting service, and in combination with the fashion of ranking universities based on the number of research papers published the university-level education is dumbed down even further. Between professors that are under immense pressure to generate publishable research and have less time to prepare for actual teaching and students that have less time to process the information they are given, the universities are turning into make-believe playgrounds, where the cadres pretend to teach and the students have time only to care about getting their grades and the final piece of paper.

    Just compare the curricula from 30 or 40 years ago with the nonsense that is happening now: you’ll see lab/practical work cut down to a minimum and theory that used to be learned in 5 or 6 years crammed into 3 or 4; ask the students how much did they pay to get the answers for the standardized tests given last year; ask the students how often are they “encouraged” to buy manuals that are published by the same professor that teaches the course, and how often they are discouraged to go read something else because there is no time to do anything else but the “correct” version.

    Demanding of young people to do “volunteer work” is the same as asking them to work for free.

    I am not exactly young, but the experience might be similar: worked for almost 6 years in a horribly underpaid research assistant position (had a second job from time to time to be able to cover the expenses incurred while doing my first job), and then used the auxiliary skills I acquired to do my first job to find another one in a completely different industry.

    Do not expect to get a job based on your degree. Real life needs skills, not pieces of paper. The degree will only open you the door to the HR department. The BA/MA/PhD degree will only help you find a job in an university or in a high tech research lab.

  23. avatar

    I think degrees help young people find a job. It is easier when you have a degree.Then come the question are you satisfied with the job you find are you qualified enough, do you want to work something different, are you well-payed? Finding job is not easy because of popullation growth. Young educated people become more and more and there is everlasting competition. In fact my degree helps me find a job. I have graduated ecology and environmental protection- and now I am working as an ecologist in a firm ( in my country), doing environmental assesments. Of course there are things I wanna improve such as: better payed work in the same area and gather more practical experiance. Most of my colleagues work in different area and are satisfied because are better payed.

  24. avatar
    Panayotis Dimitrios Moutafidis

    jobs in Europe unempolymment have grow up and continue beacause the politics of Europe is this cheap work big profits for less you can continue your nice work

  25. avatar
    André Gomes da Silva

    Too much qualified: law degree, post graduation in Labour law and human rights, master in human rights, specialization in asylum and refugees, specialization in peace operations and humanitarian action, trainer in several areas, specialization in rescue an extrication, specialization in first aid, bar association course…Portugal is being destroyed by the austerity measures. Theres no present and no future for the younj generation. Hope, I have hope!

  26. avatar
    Violeta Bredbury

    There are countrys where I have to pick up fruits, so I wrote a little poem :We used to pick up fruits on our brigades.Now we are doing it for our mates,cause they are posh and we are APARTAIDS/in Europe/.At least,they give us tax rebate.

  27. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    ?nteresting it is so in Turkey also. ?f anybody does not have a liar talent and plot, she/he can not go on the job :)

    • avatar
      Christos Mouzeviris

      I agree…. Some friends of mine back in Greece have to remove some of their qualifications out of their CVs in order to find jobs… Companies do not want to pay for qualifications… They want slaves to work for nothing and be qualified … but not pay them for their degrees… Welcome to our modern capitalist greedy system!!! Enjoy!!

  28. avatar
    Kristina Santos

    Yes,my degrees helped me find a job! Even before I got the first one I was already working. Sadly and today,the situation is so very the opposite!!

  29. avatar
    Cristian-Dan Popescu

    Yes ,but of a tremendous impact were the teacher training courses I had abroad or at home ( Read ROMANIA ) with the British Council teachers !!!

  30. avatar
    Fernando Firmino

    rute tenho dificuldade em identificar a tua foto por seres muito parecida com a tua mae, confesso que nao sei se estou a falar com a mae ou a filha ,sao iguais!olha penso que a filha.

  31. avatar
    Maria De Fatima Arruda

    I like many people possess good knowledge and ability, even above the average of many people who have studied more, bad labor market that does not count for much if it did, I would be very well employed

  32. avatar
    eusebio manuel pecurto vestias

    Muitos jovens ainda não estão preparados para enfrentar os mercados de trabalho porque falta qualificação é a esperiencia dentro do mercado de trabalho ora aqui temos a formação profissional os estados menos poderosos tem que apostar na qualificação profissional porque os mercados de trabalho são exigentes as taxas do desempregos estão a subir porque são as pessoas da meia idade que estão a entrar no desemprego e muitas destas pessoas estão qualificadas

  33. avatar
    Daniela Di Mauro

    It’s weird to see how my passion for youth development projects and my volunteer experiences during my university years, have helped me to get a good job and not really my studies. The year after I finished my Masters Degree was the most frustrating of my life because I felt in a jungle of CV senders not only from my country but from Europe. But, my advice is to keep it hard and to try to specialize yourself in a field you love it while you’re studying during university. Too much theory never helps until you get the chance to experience it!

  34. avatar

    EU = everything for banks and corporations, nothing for people.

    The Eurosoviet must be overthrown and the wealth-destroying Euro itself destroyed. When we get rid of them we can start rebuilding national countries and restore hope to young people. As long as the Eurosoviet is around, people suffer and corporations profit.

  35. avatar
    Elsa Miranda Santos

    having a degree certainly helps, but the labour market needs skills and degrees don’t teach skills, work experience and vocational courses do. If you’ve never worked, then there’s not a lot of point in getting a PHD. Infact, it will probably make things worse, because you’ll be over qualified but with no experience…..

  36. avatar

    A lot of young people in my country think, that education in the university is wasting precious time from your years for working and collecting skills. They say – we don’t need the system, and they are absolutely right. If you go to the university, because everybody do this -yes, it’s meanless . Honestly I did that at the very begging. I choose journalism instead of drama, and step by step I started to like it.I always see the world in a curious kind of way, so more and more learning would be great…having a job will be the easiest thing afterwords, not just because I see the world through pink glasses, but because when you are inspired, when you like your study-you create your job. That kind of people we need in the universities. The ones who truly want to know. And why they choose management and business – because I call it “the money thing”. Very bad. Why? You say that is the only way to feed you family, for example. But i see the situation like this. Easy “money.thing” won’t make you happy or satisfied and unhappy family is not hungry,yes, but is ill in the worst way – mental. We need volunteer society. Doing everything including the PhD because you have to! Good luck everybody in life!

  37. avatar
    Iva Yankova

    A lot of young people in my country think, that education in the university is wasting precious time from your years for working and collecting skills. They say – we don’t need the system, and they are absolutely right. If you go to the university, because everybody do this -yes, it’s meanless . Honestly I did that at the very begging. I choose journalism instead of drama, and step by step I started to like it.I always see the world in a curious kind of way, so more and more learning would be great…having a job will be the easiest thing afterwords, not just because I see the world through pink glasses, but because when you are inspired, when you like your study-you create your job. That kind of people call. Why? You say that is the only way to feed you family, for example. But i see the situation like this. Easy “money.thing” won’t make you happy or satisfied and unhappy family is not hungry,yes, but is ill in the worst way – mental. We need volunteer society. Doing everything including the PhD because you have to! Good luck everybody in life!

  38. avatar

    Well, maybe not the full degree, but in my experience, being enrolled in a good university really helps when applying for a job while studying. Partly, it might just be the added confidence and the very competitiveness of getting into and doing well at a good school that would be behind you.
    Starting to look for work after getting the full degree would probably be a little late. But hey – why generalize, which degree are we even talking about?
    I’m still a student, but by the time I graduate, I aim to be able to employ myself. In fact, I find that the European businesses are mostly so uncompetitive that it shouldn’t be difficult to flourish in this environment.

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