When rich kids can’t find jobs, it means socialism has failed.

Posted on by Pastabagel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

The Economist reports on 40% youth unemployment in Spain.

MARIA GIL ULLDEMOLINS is a smart, confident young woman. She has one degree from Britain and is about to conclude another in her native Spain. And she feels that she has no future.

Ms Ulldemolins belongs to a generation of young Spaniards who feel that the implicit contract they accepted with their country—work hard, and you can have a better life than your parents—has been broken. Before the financial crisis Spanish unemployment, a perennial problem, was pushed down by credit-fuelled growth and a prolonged construction boom: in 2007 it was just 8%. Today it is 21.2%, and among the young a staggering 46.2%. “I trained for a world that doesn’t exist,” says Ms Ulldemolins.

The subjectivity is packed into that first paragraph like a fat person in skinny jeans. She’s “smart, confident” and “she feels that she has no future”.

The article starts with this paragraph for no other reason than to bias the reader We are supposed to feel like Ms. Ulldemolins is precisely the kind of European who should encounter little resistance on her way to the elites of European society. She’s well-traveled and well-pedigreed, on her way to completing two degrees. She has two degrees from two schools in two countries. Semiotically, that decodes as “She’s was born into the upper class.” The article is not about youth unemployment. It’s about the unemployability of the children on the upper classes of European society.

Feeling sympathetic yet?

What if her name was Aisha Hussein? Then undoubtedly, the European reader would find her less entitled to enter the implied contract that Ms. Ulldemolins has entered. Then Aisha codes as a social climber, an immigrant taking jobs away from the likes of Ms. Ulldemolins. Reading about Aisha, you’d be less sympathetic to the Euro-doom narrative the article is pushing.

Let’s get to the facts. The only fact present in that introduction is that her two degrees are worthless. I mean that quite literally, the market has chosen to place no value on someone with those two degrees. And how do I know this? Because the article doesn’t tell us what degrees she has.

How much do you want to bet that her two degrees aren’t in Materials Science and Genetic Engineering? By not telling us what she studied, the article inoculates itself (and her) against the completely understandable response of “Maybe she should have studied something marketable.” Tell me, after reading the article, do you know what job was Ms. Ulldemolins looking for? The Economist is read by influential people throughout industry, maybe if they gave us more information, a reader would offer to hire her. But just as with her degree, you don’t know, because they don’t tell you. But I’ll tell you: finance, NGO, or government. “I trained for a world that doesn’t exist.” You got that right. But thanks anyway for confirming that you didn’t study science.

There is something decidedly broken about a culture that is appalled by 40% youth unemployment, but wasn’t appalled by 20% youth unemployment in 2005 at the height of the world’s collective financial drinking binge, about a culture that believes that two degrees, regardless of what they are, are enough to grant entry into the elites of society, regardless of the job. Where did they think the money was coming from? At least in the U.S., a massive entertainment industry affords humanities majors with ample job opportunities crafting detergent pitches and scripting vampire romances. But second-tier Europe?

Repeat after me, Ms. Ulldemolins, “Bienvenido a McDonald’s. Le puedo tomar su orden?”

"The sweet smell of success is french fries!"

Update: I did some investigating. The Economist has really outdone itself. The woman quoted at the start of the article, Maria Gil Ulldemolins? The one we are supposed to feel sorry for? Yeah, she’s an art student. With a blog.

Shame on you, Economist. 

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22 Responses to When rich kids can’t find jobs, it means socialism has failed.

  1. max says:

    She made this far too easy:

    CV: Maria Gil Ulldemolins


    MA Contemporary Art History and Visual Culture, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (in collaboration with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid )

    Fine Arts, 78 credits
    Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

    Ba (Hons) Product Design (2.1)
    Central St. Martins, University of the Arts London, United Kingdom

    Introduction to Product Design
    Central St. Martins, University of the Arts London, United Kingdom

    International Baccalaureate (41 points out of 45)
    Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa,

  2. claudius says:

    A person with a degree in science says, “How does it work?”
    A person with a degree in mathematics says, “How many ways will it work?”
    A person with a degree in liberal arts says, “Would you like fries with that?”

  3. sunshinefiasco says:

    Note: UWC, the South African school/the last school in italics, isn’t a college, it’s an international high school. I went to college with a few UWC kids, and the fact that it’s on her CV tells me two things: if she made decent grades, she probably had lots of choices for schools, and that she’s keeping it on her CV in the hopes that another UWC person plucks her from obscurity.

    Also: While no one should be expecting too much out of an art degree in this economy, high school and college counselors continue to encourage kids to study liberal arts, and never provide realistic guidance on what careers/sectors are in demand. Obviously tech industries employ tons of people, but if tech-related stuff isn’t your first choice, and no one really disabuses anyone of the notion that there aren’t jobs for all these people with humanities degrees, you wind up with a whole lot of people who are underqualified to teach public school, something that they previously considered beneath them.

    Lastly: To Maria, take some damn responsibility. You chose your major TWICE, and if you can’t get a job it’s because you didn’t put in the effort/make the contacts/do the work to be one of the 3 people who gets hired for what you do. Move somewhere where they need what you do, or work a shit job and plot your next move like a grown-up. It’s not like you have crippling US-style debt anyway.

  4. robotslave says:

    Perhaps, here on a blog where people are comfortable waving around Hegelian dialectic, Marxist analysis, Deconstruction, and other theoretical tools used in social and media criticism, we might pause for a moment to reflect on the fact that they don’t teach any of that crap in your core Engineering curriculum.

    And this persistent myth gets a little tiring, too, the one that says a “technical” degree (ie, Advanced Auto Mechanics, and definitely not Theoretical Physics) will magically land you a job. The Middle East is packed with young middle-class men with Engineering degrees from foreign universities, sitting around jobless. This is not new, either– this has been the case for quite some time.

    The key to getting a job isn’t the right degree, it’s the right connections. A “good” University can help you there, but it can only do so much if you were born in the wrong country with the wrong parents speaking the wrong language, without the talent or instinct of a hustler.

    Yes, Maria has plenty of witty, well-dressed friends, I’m sure. Her problem is that these days, none of them are in a position to get her hired— not that she had no interest in Organic Chemistry.

    • Hypocrisy Illustrated says:

      “…Hegelian dialectic, Marxist analysis, Deconstruction, and other theoretical tools used in social and media criticism…”

      It’s all just mental masturbation.

      Because let’s be honest about for whom we narcissistic pricks are really doing all this analysis and thinking…

      Work is something else entirely – doing something for somebody else – that the market is willing to reward. Everything else is hobby.

      • Comus says:

        I think it’s more like a case of mental exhibitionists, followed by a fateful herd of voyerists.

        Then again there’s an old (maybe russian) proverb of sex being merely mutual masturbation in manure.

        In the comfort of the internet you can do with your mind what you will.

        Yes, everything is irrelevant.

    • lilsheep23 says:

      Here! Here!

      It’s a tired old stereotype that liberal arts degrees are useless. Sadly, the stereotype is compounded by the fact that the value of a bachelors degree has fallen so quickly in the past few decades as a result of the myth that you needed one to get a job. This translated into people going to college who did not want to be there and did not belong there.

      Practical education is great and I certainly would not have relied on just my social science training to land a job; but my liberal arts education did more to shape my values as well as hone my logical and critical thinking skills than my b-school training.

  5. Hypocrisy Illustrated says:

    “…an art student. With a blog.”

    How much is keeping and publishing a blog at all a serious symptom of chronic narcissism ?

    Does our young artist need treatment?

    Can she even be helped?

    Aren’t we also probably in need of help for our very participation in the always irresistible Partial Objects?

    • sunshinefiasco says:

      I don’t think anyone’s saying that her blog or her degree make her a narcissist. I think that fashioning and presenting yourself as a multi-lingual-dual-degree holding-world traveling-how could you NOT employ me young person is obnoxious. All those things might be true, but no one owes her a job.

      She wanted to study art and design, she wanted to study abroad, she wanted to see the world and start a blog. Good for her. She did that stuff. But it doesn’t equal a job, and she knew what her employment prospects were halfway through her major, and if she didn’t, that’s something she has to take responsibility for.

    • operator says:

      How much is keeping and publishing a blog at all a serious symptom of chronic narcissism?

      The seriousness of the problem is directly proportional to the extent which one expects to be paid by others for gracing the internet with one’s blog.

      Does our young artist need treatment?

      Job training and placement should be sufficient – it’s easier to devote oneself to delusions of entitlement when one does not have to get one’s hands dirty.

      Aren’t we also probably in need of help for our very participation in the always irresistible Partial Objects?

      The person asking is the only one qualified to answer that question. Can you afford the time away from paying work? (If you’re running late for a mandatory team meeting regarding the new line of tacos with a Doritos shell, you probably know the answer – oops! gotta run…)

  6. eqv says:

    I agree that the Economist is grossly misrepresenting the facts, but I think contemporary media narratives that say you can have a well-paid job (hell, you deserve one) as an ‘artist’ are just as worthy of blame. Carrie Bradshaw writes one column per week for a shitty gossip magazine, but she can still afford all those shoes…

    I think this comic is also relevant, although if you believe TLP, the date range is all screwed up:

    God forbid I talk about myself on Partial Objects, but: I’m 20. I don’t live in the U.S. I’m just finishing up a liberal arts degree in English lit and (!) Media Studies. I’m under absolutely no illusions about the marketability of that kind of degree. I write a lot of short stories and poetry, but I know that the chances of being able to do that as a full-time job are even slimmer. I will probably end up training as a journalist (I know, I know). I hate it when these smug law/business students with shitty grammar ask me if I’m “going to be a high school teacher or something.” Idiot, do you think there are enough jobs out there for your entire graduating class? You’d better be in the top ten percent, or have connections of some kind, because otherwise you’re going to be next to me at McDonald’s, working the friers.

  7. Pingback: Fry-Cooks or Dilettantrepreneurs?… Artists and Liberal Artists… What do you want to be when you grow up? | Partial Objects

  8. Reb says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, It’s so exhausting hearing Europeans blame other for their problems, I was waiting for Ms. Ulldemolins to bring up the U.S. or Germany for her inability to get a job. They should have some kind warning before you decide to major in something as useless as Art (unless you’re insanely talented). I do feel bad for her though, she really thought that her degree(s) would be enough, poor girl.

  9. Pingback: #OccupyWallStreet, or Get a Job on Wall Street? | Partial Objects

  10. mgu says:

    Hey there,
    I’ve been thinking whether I should or should not leave a reply on this post. You see, I’m the person whose CV has been posted in here (no blaming, it IS on my website).
    I decided to write because everybody is entitled to their opinion, but there are a few facts that I’d like to clarify, if that’s OK.
    I went to a UWC school, and that was amazing. I got a scholarship from the UWC organization in order for me to study there, because otherwise I would have never been able to afford it. Then I proceeded to study in London, but I had to work insanely to sustain myself there. I did not work in McDonalds, but I have worked in Pizza Hut in my village in Spain and in all sorts of stores and restaurants in London. I am not from a priviledged background.
    I did study an artistic degree, and I never thought that design studios or galleries would be waiting for me. But I did not think that they’d expect me to work for free for years. I just cannot afford that. I would even say I never expected to be an artist or a designer. I do believe that what I learned can be applied in many other areas.
    That was all.
    Thanks for posting this answer.

    • operator says:

      I did study an artistic degree, and I never thought that design studios or galleries would be waiting for me.

      In that case, what would you say was your motivation for schooling?

      How do you reconcile this statement with the statement “I trained for a world that doesn’t exist” made in your interview?

  11. mgu says:

    Dear operator, I’m so glad you are open to hear whatever I’ve got to say!
    Thanks so much for the opportunity.
    I am curious and, somehow, design and art satisfied/provoked my curiosity. Keeping mentally engaged has been very important. That’s why I decided to do a MA in Art History and Visual Culture: that aspect of what I did in my degree was the most challenging and the one I enjoyed the most (I’m terrible at computers). Now, as I said before, I do believe, maybe naively, that the tools I were given in my degree and MA can be applied in other areas. And, as a matter of fact, I am exctatic to say I am doing precisely that, part time, at the moment. AND! I am getting paid for it. For an ethical company! I am over the moon.
    Back to the declaration of training for a world that didn’t exist, I think I meant “training” in a wider sense. Let’s say “I signed a contract with society”, even though that’s corny. I am the first one in my immediate family to have a university degree. My parents were sold the idea that their bright kid only had to become the best at what she did for the world to surrender to her charms. They couldn’t do it, but apparently I could. I felt I failed at that. Also, the “training” I had as a citizen was about consuming, doing my thing, accomplishing certain milestones. I made some decisions about my consumption (I am a vegan, for instance, and I am aware that saying that might make my “portrait” worse), but, still. I was trained to live a life that will not resemble the one I need to be living.
    My sentence was not so much “poor me” but “now I’ll have to figure out what else I can do with myself in this context”. It was more about my generation being relatively innocent of the mess we are in (we haven’t had time to have too many cars, too many children or too many mortgages), and the fact that i expected being able to make certain mistakes, but I feel that now I cannot afford the luxury of making those mistakes.
    Does this make any sense?

    • Pastabagel says:


      Thank you for coming over here to share with us some of the details of your story that the Economist article left out. And congratulations on being the first in your family to earn a degree (two!), because that is an achievement under any circumstances.

      My article was not meant to make generalizations about your “portrait” as you put it, or exploit a stereotype, but rather to focus the attention on what the Economist chose to tell us about your story, and what they chose to leave out.

      Since writing the article, I have visited your blog a number of times, and had difficultly reconciling the talent on display there with what the article said about you not being able to find a job. If someone this talented, with so much entrepreneurial and creative energy, cannot get a job in Europe, than something is really wrong in Europe.

      But this is precisely the point. The Economist used your story, but left out the part about your degree being in Art, left out the fact that you have a blog and part time design work, and left out the part about you being the first in your family to get a degree. Why did they leave these things out? These are the details that tell us who you are.

      Because they are using your story to convince readers to believe something that isn’t even true about you. The fact is that most of the 40% youth unemployed in Spain are not starting their own fledgling enterprises, even part time. They used to to represent the masses, but in fact you are the exceptional case that proves the rule.

      To this point: “now I’ll have to figure out what else I can do with myself in this context”, I think this was always the case, with everyone. The problem was that most people preferred to get a job that they were unhappy with rather than to make a run at what they really wanted to do. So looking at it from that standpoint, you may already be doing what is good for you, even if it isn’t good for “the economy”.

      Good luck with you endeavors!

    • johnnycoconut says:

      I really appreciate that you were willing to leave such a kind and well-thought-out comment on this post about you. I also agree with Pastabagel’s reply even though he was clearly covering his ass. I love Pastabagel when he’s earnest and forward-looking, as opposed to cynical and flippant. You’re clearly part of the post-postmodern cohort, defined by their earnestness, who Pastabagel talked about in an earlier post. I hope I am too. I’m only 19 years old. I want to be like you (though I’m more of a sometimes-talented musician). A lot of people rest their hopes for the future on people like you. No pressure!

    • johnnycoconut says:

      (Yes, I’m aware that this is a dead thread and you probably won’t see this. I just wanted to say it anyway.)

  12. sw says:

    Maria, really, let’s get real. You really should have thrown all your curiosity, creativity and talent for innovation out the window and become an accountant! Earn your wage, pay your morgage, drive your car and don’t bother anyone. I mean, who needs innovation? We can just keep going the way we always have, because it clearly works briliantly.

    • sunshinefiasco says:

      Listen buddy, I get where you’re coming from (I too have a degree that’s responsible for a whole lot of critical thinking and not a lot of employment). But it’s hardly the Art Historians that are gonna get out of this mess, and it’s not CPAs that we’re lacking most (though we are lacking CPAs!). And I’d love for you to point out where someone told her to get a Hummer and a mortgage.