German companies including BMW and BASF are recruiting small numbers of unemployed young Spaniards against a backdrop of chronic youth unemployment in southern Europe and a growing shortage of skilled labor in Germany.
Twenty-five workers aged 18 to 25 will be trained for a year at the Munich headquarters of premium car maker BMW in a pilot program,the company's personnel chief Milagros Caina-Andree told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Wednesday.
The workers represent a tiny fraction of Spain's 3.5 million unemployed under-25-year-olds, but BMW's Caina-Andree said the program, which could be expanded to Italy or Greece, was an effort to "give something back" to its customer countries.
BMW's announcement came a day after German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned at a Paris conference that failure to beat youth unemployment could tear Europe apart. Schaeuble has recently agreed bilateral plans with both Spain and Portugal to help get more of their young people into work.
More than half of Spaniards and Greeks under the age of 25 are unemployed, compared with fewer than 8 percent of Germans and Austrians from the same age group.
German officials fear Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces an election in September, could be blamed if a hot summer in recession-mired southern Europe leads to an explosion of social unrest.
Germany is also keen to tap unemployed youth abroad because it needs to attract foreign workers to make up for shortages in some professions and sectors at home.
Chemicals giant BASF has launched a project to train about 20 young people in Spain, with the aim of employing them at its headquarters in Ludwigshafen to secure a supply of skilled technical staff, a company spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
Similarly, the world's biggest business software maker SAP aims to recruit university graduates from southern Europe via a programme it launched jointly with other German technology companies in March.
Last year, 33,000 posts for job training remained unfilled in Germany, and young workers from recession-hit parts of the euro zone could help fill that gap.
Consumer goods group Henkel said it was also considering a move similar to BMW's but had no concrete plans.
Spain is making its own efforts to employ its youth. It launched a four-year plan offering incentives to companies that hire people under 30, and the Labour Ministry says it has led to 30,000 new training contracts for youths so far this year, up 73 percent from a year ago.
Among the companies that have joined the plan are bank BBVA and power utility Iberdrola. Oil major Repsol,with a new PR campaign trumpeting its recruitment and training programs, said it has created 3,500 jobs for youths in Spain in the past five years, while telephone giant Telefonica has several scholarship programs to cultivate young talent and provide jobs in the company's Spanish business, despite a 2011 plan to lay off 6,500 workers in its home market over three years.