Get a tan or go abroad: Europe’s unemployment inspires desperate measures

The government wants to give the unemployed some color in the Welsh town of Aberdare
The government wants to give the unemployed some color in the Welsh town of Aberdare
Image: Getty Images / Adam Gault
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As Europe’s unemployment rate tops 10% with more than 25 million people out of work, and nearly 23% (pdf) of them are under 25, some creative solutions to joblessness are springing up.

The Swedish town of Söderhamn, 250 kilometers (150 miles) north of Stockholm, population of about 12,500, is helping youth find work by offering them free housing for a month, as well as coaching and advice—not in Sweden, but in Norway. The English-language Norway Post subtly implies that it’s an attempt by Swedish officials to offload their jobs problem—the country has a 23% youth unemployment rate—on to Norway, where joblessness is considerably lower. Far from it, Mohamed Chabchoub, leader of the employment office in Söderham, insists. The program, called “The job journey—the door to finding work in Norway” is really about new adventures. He says:

 We do not send them away. We help them take one more step, and gain another experience.

The Welsh town of Aberdare, by contrast, is trying to keep people in town and looking for work by offering them a free spray tan. The town has an unemployment rate of 9.6%, the highest rate in the country. The plan allows jobseekers to take advantage of a free beauty treatment at the town’s Well-being and Training Academy. Sarah Sweeden, director of the well-being center, says it’s only for people serious about finding work, and will help boost their confidence. She says:

It will recognize those who are doing their utmost to find unemployment by giving them a beauty treatment.

Opposition critics have predictably ridiculed the scheme. At least it’s being paid for by the non-profit well-being center, rather than the local council or taxpayers.

A more pragmatic approach is being tried by two British housing project companies (Alliance Homes and Knightstone Housing Association), which recently ran a two-week “PopUp” business school to teach local people how to start businesses. There were classes in technology, social media, financing, and confidence-building, and students competed to set up businesses in the least amount of time. Alan Donegan, a co-creator of the school said:

The whole purpose of this Pop-Up business school was to help people sort their financial situation out. We designed this so people could set up and start making money immediately.

However, as immigrants keep pouring into Europe in search of work, young Europeans are increasingly leaving to look for jobs abroad, including in former colonies and other language-friendly environments. Young Spaniards are heading to Latin America and Miami, young Portuguese are going to Brazil, Angola, and East Timor, while Irish and Greek youth are moving to Australia. While it’s unclear if they’ll have an easier time finding work in these places, at least they won’t need fake tans.