Reporting on the Unforgiving Truth of El Salvador’s Graduate Unemployment

In a country where it is dangerous to be a journalist, María López wants to tell one ugly truth nobody wants to acknowledge.

After graduating from Universidad Don Bosco with a degree in Communication Studies, Maria looked for employment within her field and joined Canal TVX as its Production Coordinator. Some of her classmates, however, were not as fortunate. In her article titled “No place for graduates: The country that rejects its professionals,” Maria recounts the story of recent graduates who are incapable to find a job in their field and must settle to work in call centers.

“I deliberated a great deal about what I can do to change the way the public and the government perceive youth unemployment. I wanted to present a differing view that challenges our assumptions about education and job prospects; it kept me devoted to this report,” Maria explained. She discovered that, in 2016, job seekers with 10 or more years of formal education had the highest rates of unemployment. The lowest levels of unemployment, conversely, are amongst those with no formal education.

A woman sits at a table with a laptop across from a man sitting at a microphone.
Maria López at Radio YSUCA’s studio with Carlos Monterrosa, host of Abriendo puertas. Courtesy of Maria López.

Maria is a fellow in Internews’ Promoting Journalism and Freedom of Expression project. She joined the program in 2016. A former participant in the Department of State’s Study of the U.S Institutes (SUSI) for Students Leaders program, Maria is familiar with U.S. institutions and society. “Youth unemployment is a problem nearly everywhere, but in order to curtail it here, in El Salvador, we must start with a candid conversation. Thanks to the training I received from Internews, I feel I can help people understand that they should be interested in what happens to our country’s graduates during their job search and tell our often unfortunate side of the story.”

One of the biggest challenges Maria faced during her investigation was obtaining the necessary data on graduate unemployment from the government. “Had it not been for Internews’ mentoring, I would not have known how to obtain previously unreleased information and documents from the Salvadoran government. I learned from my tutors how to transform the raw data from my requests into databases and interpret those figures in many ways.”

Maria’s article has received positive responses from thousands of people on social media, who describe her arguments as “authoritative” but “demoralizing.” She has been invited to comment on various shows and most recently featured on Radio YSUCA’s Abriendo puertas. Maria wishes to continue with this research topic, now centering on geographical and gender inequality in employment opportunities.

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Story by Joseph Dickens, Internews Program Associate for Latin America and the Caribbean. Internews’ work in El Salvador is supported by USAID.

(Banner image: Maria López inside Canal TVX’s master control. Courtesy of Maria López.)