Disclaimer: The author of this post is working on the GenerationE.eu project.
Every day hundreds of young people from the south of Europe pack their belongings and head to a different country in the European Union in search of better opportunities. The trend is growing across the peripheries — Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain in particular — where the ongoing economic crisis and high unemployment rates have opened the way for the departure of hundreds of thousands of people of working age in the last four years.
We herein call them “Generation E”: they are European ‘expats’ under 40 taking on the EU's fundamental right of free movement to build a future within Europe, but not in their homeland. Their migration flows in the continent, though, are difficult to track. There are many estimates and fragmented data sets among the involved countries, but no accurate transnational maps and statistics.
Enter “Generation E“, a cross-border data investigation on young European migrants. The independent project, funded by journalismfund.eu, aims to shed a light on the existing data and to collect contributions from young Europeans abroad.
Through a crowdsourcing campaign launched by an international team of journalists on September 8, 2014, young European ‘expats’ from Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain are invited to share their personal stories of crossing the imaginary boundaries of the Old Continent to reinvent day-to-day life in another country.
An intra-European exodus?
The phenomenon is complex to monitor and underrated in terms of size and relevance. A study by the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (CSIC) of Spain — a country that officially lost roughly 102,000 young adults 20 to 40 years old between 2010 and 2013 — notes that national sources “substantially underestimate emigration”:
Es más probable que la cifra se acerque a las 700.000 personas entre 2008 y 2012 que a las 225.000 estimadas por fuentes oficiales.
It is more likely that the [total] number [of emigrants] is closer to 700,000 people between 2008 and 2012 than the official sources’ estimate of 225,000.
135,000 young adults have officially left Italy since 2010 but official statistics do not take into account those who do not formally change their residence. “Estimates circulating speak of at least twice the number of expatriates”, reports Italian journalist Jacopo Ottaviani, coordinator of Generation E project, on Il Fatto Quotidiano. He himself is one of the official.
Nel Regno Unito, il primo paese destinazione per gli italiani in fuga, il console italiano a Londra Massimiliano Mazzanti ha notato che gli italiani «ufficialmente iscritti all’Aire sono in tutto 220mila, mentre le stime sono di oltre mezzo milione a livello Paese e di 250mila nella capitale». Non a caso il sindaco della City Boris Johnson ha accolto in aprile il premier Renzi dandogli il benvenuto nella «sesta città italiana». Come se una città come Genova fosse stata trapiantata tra i quartieri di Londra.
In the UK, the first country destination for Italians on the run, the Italian consul in London Massimiliano Mazzanti noted that Italians “officially registered in AIRE [the register of Italians living abroad] are around 220,000, while the estimates are over half a million at the country level and 250,000 in the capital”. Not surprisingly, the mayor of the city, Boris Johnson, welcomed Prime Minister Renzi in April into the “Sixth Italian city”. As if a city like Genoa had been transplanted between the districts of London.
Portugal, a country of less than 10.5 million people, has 2.3 million emigrants (20.8 percent), occupying second place by percentage of population among the member states of the European Union that emigrate the most, only behind Malta. In the last four years, around 107,000 young adults — between 20 and 40 years old — officially left in a permanent manner, roughly as many as those who emigrated for temporary jobs and stays.
Migration estimates from Greece, the country where the youth unemployment rates reach some of the higher numbers (close to 60 percent in 2013), are also not exhaustive – if any. Contacted by the reporting team in Athens, the Hellenic Statistical Authority stated that they do not record Greek emigration flows.
Stories of Generation E, crowdsourced
As Greek expat in London Sofia Gkiousou states on the New Diaspora blog “the choice or compulsion to go abroad is a very personal matter for each person, affecting their actual life.” What triggers a decision to leave? Is there an intention to return or is it elsewhere that they want to stay? What difficulties do the young European diaspora face today? What are the hopes that feed their future?
Widening the spectrum of the so-called “Generation Y” (of “those born between 1980 and 1994-99“, best described by Portuguese journalist Ana Cristina Pereira), “Generation E” proposes to go back to 1974 and bring to light stories of today's migrants who were born in the first 20 years after the collapse of the dictatorships in Portugal, Greece and Spain.
The results of the project will be published in the end of October by Il Fatto Quotidiano (Italy), El Confidencial (Spain), RadioBubble (Greece) and P3/Público (Portugal), and include highlights from crowdsourced stories, a deep data investigation (visualized with maps and interactive charts), and interviews with researchers and decision-makers from Europe.
If you are under 40 and left Portugal, Italy, Greece or Spain in recent years, tell us your story. If you have friends who belong to the “Generation E”, invite them to share some of their joys and plans, hopes and fears. Can do so through the official website (available in Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Spanish and English), Facebook page and group as well as under the hashtag #GenerationE on Twitter. Submit your story!