There are a record 6 million Spanish workers without work in comparison to 1.7 million in 2007, which was just before the economic crash. Unemployment rates are constant rising. And it now stands at 26 percent, the second highest in the European Union, Greece being the first. In southern Spain, the situation is even worse, with nearly a third of workers unemployed in the provinces of Andalusia and Extremadura, the cities of Albacete, Ciudad Real and Toledo, the Canary Islands and the North African enclave of Ceuta.
Spanish youth have been particularly badly hit, with nearly 60 percent of those under age 25 without work. Amongst migrant workers, unemployment is 36.5 percent.
In the public sector conditions are even worse. Where nearly 200,000 jobs were destroyed in 2012, almost seven times the 32,400 cut in 2011. Most of the job losses have been in the autonomous regions and municipalities.
Nearly 2 million of the 6 million without work have been unemployed for more than two years and are no longer entitled to unemployment benefits. Only 9 percent have a chance of finding work, compared to 30 percent five years ago, according to the employment agency association AGETT.
Some 10 percent of households constituting nearly 2 million people have all their members unemployed—an increase of 16 percent compared to 2011.
At the same time, 63 percent of those in work have received cuts in their income of 1 to 10 percent since 2011, according to a study by the Organisation of Consumers and Users. One in ten workers have seen their salaries slashed by more than 20 percent. A similar disaster has affected pensioners, with one in three losing up to 10 percent of their meager income, and nearly one in ten losing up to 20 percent.
Between October and December 2012, some 125,500 young people between the ages of 20 and 35 years emigrated, as did 87,000 foreigners, mainly unemployed immigrants from Latin America, Africa and eastern Europe.
Reacting to the latest unemployment figures, the leader of the Communist Party-aligned United Left, Cayo Lara, urged the Popular Party government to change its economic policies as a result of its “complete failure” and declared, “How many unemployed are necessary for the government to react?”
That question should be addressed to the trade unions. Both the Communist Party-controlled CC.OO and the PSOE-aligned UGT signed labour reforms ending national collective bargaining agreements and making it easier and cheaper to fire workers, paving the way for the onslaught on jobs, wages and public services. They have just announced the resumption of further “social dialogue” with the employers’ organisation CEOE. The UGT leader Cándido Méndez made clear the substance of these talks when he said, “We must make policies that favour the maintenance and creation of industrial sectors with greater added value.”
This can only mean more agreements that have made Spain the only large EU economy to witness a fall in unit labour costs since 2009. Recognising this fact, carmakers such as Ford, Peugeot and Renault have all announced plans to increase production in Spain. At Nissan, the unions agreed this month to cut wages for new starters by 20 percent.
By Kelly Walker, Rebecca Anderson & Lauren Findlay