In France, they are the "700 generation" – earning €700 a month (US$965). Affordable housing is in short supply, rents are expensive, and for many, getting a home loan seems as likely as changing the rings of Saturn. Without a work contract, it is often hard to sign a lease. Moving from flat to flat takes a toll, and living at home puts a strain on families.
Nadera is a young French Arab, 28. With black hair pulled back and fine features, she has a slightly glamorous look that belies her status as a member of the 700 generation who works seasonal jobs for cash. She's staying on the couch of friends in Paris. She comes from a family of nine. She left home at 14 and has held numerous jobs. One was caring for the handicapped, and she would like to one day own a home-care business; helping others is an ideal of hers. But she doesn't know what to do next, and struggles with a sense of "belonging." "I don't feel European or French, and when I go to Morocco, I don't feel Moroccan," she says. "What's my place and what is Europe's place in the world?"
Little things cost a lot for this generation: phones, train tickets, food. Twenty-five-year-olds compete with 40-year-olds for work. As Europe ages and budgets tighten, older generations want to keep their jobs. Politicians concoct "programs" to help youth, but they give concrete benefits to older generations who vote – bus passes, optical help, winter fuel, pension breaks. The young are, well, young, and considered more adaptable.
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Globally, only Southeast Asia has low youth unemployment. In Europe, figures show a rise in joblessness since the 2008 fiscal crisis began. In 2007, the overall jobless rate among youth was 14.4 percent, according to Eurostat, the statistical arm of the European Commission. But by 2010, it had risen to more than 20 percent. In Europe's southern tier it is higher. Spain's jobless rate rose from 18 percent to 41.6 percent among 18-to-24-year-olds. Only Germany saw a decline.