Education, employment and the economy - hope for hispanohablantes?
by Olivia Elson on Thursday, July 22, 2010
During my Spanish lesson today, the discussion suddenly took a turn for the serious. The topics? Education, employment and the economy - three subjects I normally try to skirt around, partly because I admit, I'm not the most clued-up when it comes to the global financial situation, but also as such conversations generally fill me with a sinking feeling at the prospect of remaining jobless and peniless for the foreseeable future owing to what many economists believe to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
We began on fairly upbeat territory, simply exploring the differences between the Spanish, English and American education systems and I was surprised to learn how different the approaches and attitudes are. For example, while Law is one of the most well-regarded degrees in both the UK and the US, here in Spain it is much less prestigious and far outclassed by scientific and technological qualifications.
From this, we moved on to talking about employment and, of course, the shaky state of the economy at the moment. The conclusions drawn were bleak to say the least - whatever your degree and wherever it is from, these days jobs are like gold-dust and, for many, impossible to find at all. Recent statistics have revealed that unemployment is rife and rates are at their highest in years. The average for Europe is 9.6%, and Spain is certinaly no exception, with one of the highest figures in Europe - just under 20% of people are without a job here. Adding salt to the wound for young people is the fact that, with a degree or not, the numbers are even higher, with over 40% unable to find employment.
That said, if we take a more long-term view of things, a few of the following facts may serve to soften the blow, at least for Spanish-speakers:
- Spanish is the world's third most spoken language (after Mandarin and English) and is the official language of 21 countries
- Spanish is the second most used language in international communication
- Approximately 1 in every 10 US residents is a Spanish-speaker
As one of the fastest growing languages in the world, and spreading at an exceptional rate in the United States in particular, prospects may well be improved for hispanohablantes. I think I'd better get practising!