It is undoubtedly better to earn €3.2 (£2.7) per hour than nothing. With a minimum wage lower than that of Greece according to Eurostat, workers in Portugal have to, through ingenious sacrifice, feed their families and pay the ever demanding bills and taxes. Yet, €566 (£478) per month is far better than nothing at all according to the unemployed youths of Portugal, the country in the European Union with the third highest youth unemployment rate.
Working in the country you call home has become an unattainable dream for many recent graduates in Portugal. In 2012 youth unemployment reached 37.7% according to Eurostat, second only to Greece and Spain. Now, after the first quarter of the year the Portuguese national statistics institute shows that 43% of under-25s who are no longer in education are unemployed.
This has left an entire generation discouraged, with current university students and recent graduates eyeing the future gloomily. As the population keeps aging, the future of a country near shambles lies within the new generation which is either unemployed or emigrating.
Afraid of finishing her Master's degree only to find herself unemployed, Ana Maria Perestrello, "began looking outside of Portugal. Emigrating sometimes is the only choice, and on average abroad you earn better and work less". There is some truth to her claim, as the average employed Portuguese works 39.1 hours per week, or 2.8 hours more than in the United Kingdom, according to the Guardian.
However, not all have discarded the idea of working in their country. Twenty year-old Joana explained how there is always work wherever you are, but there are people, especially university graduates, who don't want to submit to "unworthy" jobs they find to be beneath them.
She adds that sometimes people don't try hard or long enough, since looking for a job is a type of job in and of itself. There will always be people who will prefer to earn government benefits than work as a checkout assistant especially because, at times, it pays better. What these people don't realize or ignore is how detrimental this is for society and the government who has to magically support them.
As a university student who is originally from Portugal, these statistics made me flinch. Chances are, if I go back home I will probably become a part of a depressing statistic no matter how hard I studied or how much work experience I gained. So, like Ana and far too many young adults, I had to start thinking about emigration. Become a citizen of the world, if you will.
Yet this course of action brings me back to a very distressing problem. If an entire generation is lost in Portugal, who will be there to lift up the country in the future? Who will stay behind? Of course no one can blame the new generation for searching for employment elsewhere due to the limited offers at home, but if all of the intelligent, educated and young people leave who will stay behind? An aging population who's pensions are being slashed because the government cannot afford that kind of spending. This is a very pessimistic scenario, but it poses some serious questions.
So perhaps emigrating isn't always an option and we should take on these "unworthy" jobs that some of us find to be "beneath us". For the sake of a better future, a better country. It might be a naïve thought, but pessimists are already beginning to fear that Portugal will lose more than the new generation; it will lose the generations after that. I wish we could prove them wrong.
Note: The statistics and numbers present in this entry are of May 2013 and will probably change slightly in the next few months.