Generation E: Data Journalism and Migration

January 6, 2015 • Digital News, Research • by

An estimated 11 million European Union citizens live in a different EU country from which they were born.

Generation E, the first cross-border data journalism project on European youth migration, aims to tell, and catalogue some of their stories.

The uniquely multi-lingual, pan-European project crowd-sources and publishes narratives from young Southern Europeans, aged between 20 and 40 years old, who left their countries for reasons ranging from a search for work, to wanderlust.

Funded by, the independent project, which was launched last September, is led by four data journalists from Italy, Portugal, Spain and Greece: Jacopo Ottaviani, Sara MoreiraDaniele Grasso, and Katerina Stavroula. It not only aims to document European youth migration, but also to compile statistics and shed light on immigration trends.

While thousands of young people migrate in Europe ever year, official data is lacking – or in some cases completely non-existent, said project founder and manager Jacopo Ottaviani.

“As data journalists, we were attracted by the lack of data and wanted to investigate,” said Ottaviani, who relocated from his native Rome to Berlin three years ago. He also aimed to tackle stereotypes, and show that migration occurs for a myriad of reasons.

From Erasmus to Easy Jet

The “E” in Generation E, said Ottaviani, stands for the many words that have come to represent youth in Europe: from Erasmus to Exodus and from Expat to Easy Jet.

Through a six-language questionnaire, respondents answer three key questions: Why did you leave your country, what do you do now, and do you plan to return? Nearly 70 percent of the so-far 2,000 respondents left for work-related reasons. Over half left their names and contact information.

“People really want to have their stories heard and find people who can relate to them,” said Sara Moreira, Generation E’s Portuguese journalist who wove interviews with respondents into a story published in December by Portugal’s Público newspaper.

Stories generated by the project have been published every month, so far by newspapers such as Il Fatto Quotidiano in Italy, El Confidencial in Spain, RadioBubble in Greece and P3/Público in Portugal, and Germany’s investigative website Correctiv. They encompass highlights from the crowdsourced stories, a deep data investigation visualized with maps and interactive charts, and interviews with researchers and decision-makers from throughout Europe.

A Gap in Statistics

Since the start of a deep recession in 2008, tens of thousands of young people in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal have immigrated to economically better-off countries. Yet official statistics often don’t take into account when these 20 or 30-somethings have left their place of residence, Ottaviani said.

For example, 135,000 people ages 20 to 40 have officially left Italy since 2010, according to Ottaviani, but it is estimated that about twice as many don’t register. Officially 250,000 Italians live in the UK, according to the Registry of Italian Resident Abroad (AIRE), half of whom live in London.

Many young people within the EU don’t feel the need to de-register when they head to a new country, or register in their new country, says Ottaviani. As they often carry the hope of returning, they do not bother to document when they have left. Furthermore, some fear they will lose health assistance in their countries if they register in a new country.

Generation E’s Greek radio journalist Katerina Stavroula tried to collect figures for the project, but was surprised to find that the Hellenistic Statistical Authority does not keep records of youth migration.

“This is the first time the Greek media is doing the work of the state,” said Stavroula from Athens, where she is based.

The project is entering its next phase in 2015, which might include new innovative story telling formats and new publications in destination countries such as France. The latter is a particularly interesting case, said Ottaviani, because it is popular locale for both immigration and emigration.

Ottaviani hopes that the project will fill the gap in pan-European and pan-lingual journalism endeavours. While many media outlets have reported on recession-driven youth migration, they are often specific to their country, he says, “rather than an issue that crosses national borders.”

This is a corrected version of the original article. The original said 500 million EU citizens were born elsewhere, but this is the total figure of EU citizens.

Pic credit:Flikr Creative Comms Emiliano




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