March 13, 2011

Portuguese youth last Saturday demonstrations

Photos taken by Isabel Camarinha, my friend, at Oporto, where at least 80.000 people gathered to protest. 
Called onto the streets by a social media Facebook campaign a total of 300.000 thousand people marched in a dozen Portuguese cities last Saturday to vent its frustration at grim career prospects. This was one of the biggest demonstrations ever held in Portugal. After a decade of feeble economic growth Portuguese are now facing hard austerity measures with reflections on every life sectors from education to health. Demonstrators were mostly on their 20s -30s but their middle-aged parents were present too and even older people in their 60s already. On Facebook´s Manifesto young organizers stated that this demonstration would be from unemployed and other poorly paid slaves disguised as workers and its aim was to trigger a qualitative change in Portugal. The organizers aspire to a decent future with stability and security. The generation with the highest level of training the country's history, they have stated, has no means to use their potential but believes to have the resources and tools to create a better future for Portugal. Right now the jobless rate stands at a record 11.2 percent. Half the unemployed are under 35. With no jobs prospects or very badly paid jobs they can’t afford to leave parents home and postpone starting a family even if they have a college education. A song called "Que parva que eu sou/ What a fool I am" by Portuguese band Deolinda has become kind of an hymn for this generation that has entitled herself “ Geração à rasca” meaning desperate generation. Deolinda’s recorded performance in Oporto’s Coliseu was uploaded on Youtube and become viral:

"I'm from the generation without pay
and this condition does not bother me.
What a fool I am!
Because it’s bad and will go on,
I’m already lucky if I could get an internship.
What a fool I am!
And I'm thinking,
what a silly world this is
where to be a slave one must study."

It gave origin to a large debate by Portuguese society, common citizens, opinion makers, politician analysts and politicians about young people condition.  This debate will go on now as Facebook's Manifesto results were better than organizers expected. Demonstration numbers also made clear that internet and social networks are a powerful tool. In my opinion the causes to this grim situation are complex. The economic crisis does not explain it all. It was bad already before economic crisis, now it is worse. Lack of Government vision and Education planning led many youngsters to invest their time in superior education courses that can’t match the society needs. My course is a good example. I went to Law School back in the 80s. Back then Coimbra’s University admitted 400 new Law students every year. I don’t know how many Law Schools we have in Portugal, too many, I’m afraid. High percentage of those qualified boys and girls can’t find a job in their expertise area. I also believe that Portuguese are not trained in entrepreneurship and still rely very much on getting a job instead of searching opportunities to create a job. My parents’ generation was obsessed with the idea of getting a higher education for their kids as they saw that an automatic passport to a better life. Not anymore. Things have changed. I also feel that this is a sign of death of capitalism. The system is dead. What will come next?

1 comment:

  1. Belinha, sim, é importante passar a palavra para fora do país!
    Alguns jornais de referência também o notificaram mas os precários dos países nossos vizinhos talvez os não leiam, talvez estejam apenas agarrados a blogs e facebook
    :(

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