MADRID — Alba Méndez, a 24-year-old with a master’s degree in sociology, sprang out of bed nervously one recent morning, carefully put on makeup and styled her hair. Her thin hands trembled as she clutched her résumé on her way out of the tiny room where a friend allows her to stay rent free.
She had an interview that day for a job at a supermarket. It was nothing like the kind of professional career she thought she would have after finishing her education. But it was a rare flicker of opportunity after a series of temporary positions, applications that went nowhere and employers who increasingly demanded that young people work long, unpaid stretches just to be considered for something permanent.
Her parents were imploring her to return home to the Canary Islands to help run her father’s fruit business. It was a sign of the times, though, that even her own father probably would not be able to afford to pay her.
“We’re in a situation that is beyond our control,” Ms. Méndez said. “But that doesn’t stop the feelings of guilt. On the bad days, it’s really hard to get out of bed. I ask myself, ‘What did I do wrong?' ”