‘My balance is zero’: young Europeans experience inflation for the first time | Young people

iin 2021 in May, while much of the world was still navigating Covid-19, The OECD has warned that young people have been disproportionately affected by the crisis and that there is a risk of “long-term scarring” to their careers and economic outcomes. Also found that many young people suffer from depression and anxiety about work and personal finances. Those concerns haven’t gone away, but the inflated cost of living, not the pandemic, now seems to be the main drag on younger living. Across the continent, the ambitions of under-30s are being thwarted by worsening economic conditions. Some of them talked about the pressure to make ends meet, often juggling work and studies.


High rents, low wages and high unemployment in Spain conspire to make living with parents the only option for many twenty-somethings. In Spain, the youth unemployment rate is 32 percent. – the largest in both the EU and the OECD. Aitana Moreno, 26, is a teacher studying for a Masters in Interpretation. She recently returned to her native Madrid from France where he previously worked as a teacher. She lives with her mother. “I have to study and work at the same time, and I live with my mother because I don’t have enough money to pay rent and study. In Madrid, it is impossible to afford to live alone. I don’t share an apartment because I don’t have a full-time job, and no one would rent me a room if I don’t have a 40-hour-a-week contract.”

Those who try to live independently may face financial problems. The Spanish government introduced a special rent allowance costs €250 a month for young people earning less than €23,725, and the Madrid region has cut public transport costs. Diana Peinado, 26, is a youth housing social worker. She recently applied for a government grant to help her pay the €600 monthly rent for the small 40 square meter flat she shares with a flatmate and her dog Cumbia.

Diana Peinado, social worker in Madrid. Photo: Diana Peinado

She said: “I’m happy to rent and share, but I don’t think other options are available. Even though this apartment costs me 600 euros a month, plus bills, I moved knowing that I could get a grant, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. The government will give me 250 euros and it will be a big relief in budgeting every month. It won’t solve my life, but I’ll be able to enjoy it a little more. On the other hand, this grant limits you in some ways. You are required to have an open-ended contract (which I do), but most contracts in my industry are fixed-term, so I can’t change jobs as easily as I’d like.

According to Spanish real estate search engine Idealistaaverage rental price in Madrid from 2021 until 2022 August. increased by 14%. Diana will have no choice but to stay in her small apartment.

Rents are rising even faster in London – with notifications from Zoopla A 17% annual increase in the average London rent, beyond what many younger people can afford. Hollie Clark, 27, works full-time as a buyer for a fashion website and also bartends 10 hours a week. Her rent in inner-city Hackney was affordable at £1,550 a month, shared between her and her boyfriend. But now it has increased by £650 a month. She was told: “It’s really happening. Pay or leave.” “So I’m really leaving,” she said. “It’s crazy. I can’t find anything under £1700 and most of them are one bedrooms. So, I will pay more for a smaller space.


In addition to spiraling rents, many young people are experiencing double-digit inflation in utilities, food and other goods for the first time. Across Europe, inflation, which averaged almost 11% in November, has not been this high in 40 years. The Baltic countries are the most affected, facing more than 20 percent. inflation.

In Hollie’s case, that means the money she saves working at the pub will be spent by the end of the month.

Others in more dire straits are forced to cut back substantially. Joachim Valente, 23, from Toulouse, worked at the city’s print shop until September, where he sorted boxes for delivery. He used to earn 800 euros a month, but now he resumed the studies he had interrupted to get a job. Joachim’s income is about €500 a month from a student grant and what his grandmother can spare, but his rent for the flat he shares with two friends is €1,000, which they split equally. “I really picked the best time to go back to study, didn’t I? Joachim said. “It’s really hard now, my lifestyle is not the same as last year. When you’re an insecure worker, you’re always concerned about what you buy and what you save, but that’s no longer the case. I used to buy more meat. I don’t buy that much now, maybe once or twice a month because it’s too expensive. We have approx 10% food price inflationso you really have to watch what you buy.”

The French government has limited increase in energy prices to 4 percent. (although this will change to 15% in January), but for those young people who are already struggling to get by, for example, students whose salary is lower than the national minimum, as much as 4%. raising prices is a challenge.

Matteo Leroux, 22, is an electrical engineering student. He earns 900 euros a month and lives alone in an apartment in Marseille that costs 400 euros a month. Like Joachim, he stopped buying meat and traded it for tuna, but the biggest problem this winter is the cold. “The problem with my apartment is that there is no insulation. Sometimes I want to turn on the heating but I can’t because the electricity bills are too high. So, I bought a gas heater, but since the unit is very old, there is no insulation and the windows are not glazed, it is often still cold.”

Low wage

In Lithuania, the average salary is 1,678 euros, and the minimum monthly salary is 720 euros before taxes. Because wages are low, many young Lithuanians leave. Despite 15-25 year olds making up 20% of the population, they make up 47% of emigrants. Some young people with university education try to work in foreign companies to increase their earning potential.

Dominykas, 26, in Vilnius, just started working remotely in a British IT company to earn more than a similar company located in Lithuania would suggest. “In the spring, I noticed that the cost of living was rising faster and faster, so I started looking for new opportunities. Inflation has been crazy in the last 12 or 24 months, apartments that were €400 a couple of years ago are now €800. The cost of electricity has skyrocketed for a while, I think because of that [Ukraine] the war At my previous company they said no raise due to inflation. I was pushing them saying, “I’m giving up,” and they didn’t believe me. But I saw a bigger opportunity in the UK [company].

In some countries, contracts to provide vocational training to young people can cause difficulties for them. Italy has no national minimum wageinstead, it relies on collective bargaining agreements that exclude many workers.

Alice Spada, 23, is an intern at a social enterprise in Rome. She earns 800 euros per month, and the rent for a shared apartment is 480 euros per month. She receives rent support from her parents, but she still has little left at the end of the month. “It’s disappointing,” she said, “I’ve studied so hard to earn so little.” I know that I am very lucky to have my parents to support me. But they shouldn’t support me.

Alice Spada, intern at a social enterprise in Rome
Alice Spada, intern at a social enterprise in Rome. Photo: Alice Spada/The Guardian

Having worked in France, Aitana from Madrid believes that the situation is even worse for young Spanish job seekers. “I think the job situation is more difficult Spain, you can’t find a job that suits you or matches your skill level, and the salaries are crap. Although the university I study at is public, it is expensive. I still have to pay about 2000 euros a year, and in France it’s free, you just pay a small administrative fee.

Gig workers are also being hit hard by rising living costs and falling platform wages. Shaf Hussein, 28 inches London, works full-time at a department store, and usually works as an app delivery courier for a few hours in the evenings. Shaf used to work full-time developing several delivery apps and could earn around £13 an hour, but wage cuts he blames on platforms adding more staff and changing their algorithms mean he’s now lucky to earn £10 sterling. hour during the busiest parts of the evening.

“If I hadn’t gotten this [department store] job, I don’t know where I would be because my bank balance is zero. I got two credit cards to build my credit but the cost of living crisis hit and now I’m in debt and my credit score has gone down.’

Like Joachim and Mateo, Shaf changed his diet in response to inflation. “I used to take an hour off and like to go to Pret or Wok to Walk and get a decent meal. Now I buy a can of Monstro or a meal deal. Just eat and go back to work. If I work all day, it won’t be fun anymore.

Aitana, Diana, Holly, Mateo, Joachim and Shaf all said that they are not at all optimistic about the future of their country’s economy.

“The news is so chaotic that when you watch it, you feel like everything is going wrong,” Aitana said. “They keep saying recession, recession, recession, the economy is collapsing. So I’m not optimistic.”

“If I were to leave the economy alone, hoping that it would improve on its own, I would be absolutely pessimistic,” Joachim said. “The light in the darkness that I see everywhere in Europe is seeing all these workers on strike.

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