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In Spain, behind the good unemployment figures, an explosion of precarious contracts


According to the Ministry of Labor, Spain would have some 800,000 fewer unemployed people at the start of the year than at the same time in 2021, a drop of 20% in one year. There would thus remain today “only” three million unemployed, that is to say an unemployment rate of 14.57% for an active population estimated at 20 million.

Seen from the outside, this may still seem considerable, but for the socialist government of Pedro Sanchez, this statistic is experienced as a victory. “Unemployment is down and now it has registered ten consecutive months of decrease, which has not happened in all of our history” said the socialist leader on his Twitter account.

That’s not wrong, but not entirely true either. If he had been more precise, the head of the Spanish executive should have added that this record in terms of job creation was above all due to the return of odd jobs in tourism, catering and trade after a sharp increase. unemployment linked to Covid-19 since February 2020 in these sectors of the economy.

“For two years, according to figures from the National Institute of Statistics, the number of jobs created has barely reached 140,000”, thus explains to Marianne Vicente Lafuente, professor of labor law at the University of Zaragoza, in the northeast of the country. Or 70,000 per year in two years with an average of 1 to 2% real decline.

Precarious jobs and low wages

We are therefore far from the 20% trumpeted by Madrid and the “recovery” therefore remains very relative. With a youth unemployment rate of 37.7%, the worst in Europe, the Spanish labor market remains one of the most precarious in the euro zone. “Certainly there are more jobs, but you have to know what type of job we are talking about. Wages are very low with an average of just under 1,500 euros gross monthly”, criticizes Joan Carles, of the Workers’ Commissions union. And to continue: “More than job creation, we should talk about the distribution of work. Each person on CDD signs on average almost five contracts per year. »

Job insecurity remains in fact the biggest flaw in the Spanish labor market. “The quality is very low and the temporary work very high. It is around 30%, the highest rate in Europe, compared to 8% in Germany. Here, 90% of new contracts signed are temporary” continues Vicente Lafuente. Figures from the Employment Agency confirm this reality. Nearly 3.2 million of employees have been hired for less than a year and 4.7 million of working people, i.e. a quarter of them, have had a contract for less than two years, a period which constitutes a milestone for being hired in CDI.

Model change

For many economists, this insecurity of employment is not justified in a country like Spain where the training time for employees is one of the longest in Europe. “We have highly qualified young people, who are accumulating professional training, regrets Carlos Gutierrez, head of the youth employment sector at Workers’ Commissions. Employment is not valued with salaries that are too low. »

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After the pandemic crisis, many economists projected a change in the production model with permanent, better paid and more specialized jobs. However, this scheme is struggling to be put in place, recognizes Vicente Lafuente: “ This crisis should have served as a turning point to move towards a more technological and industrial productive system. An economy cannot depend only on tourism and construction, where the jobs are very low-skilled”.

This paradigm shift is one of the conditions required by Europe to disburse the funds provided under the NextGeneration recovery plan. Spain has been allocated a generous envelope of 140 billion euros over the next six years, out of a total of 750 billion euros. In exchange, it must make efforts and change the model. Approved on December 28, the reform of labor legislation aims to reduce these structural problems of the labor market. The government has thus announced an injection of funds into the public administration in order to regularize contractual statuses. We are talking about 100,000 new jobs in the police or in education.

For economists, it will take many more years to transform the driving sectors of the Iberian economy. Construction and hotels and restaurants continue to be the pillars, each providing around 14% of GDP. Experts also deplore that this recovery in employment is too geographically imitated, leaving part of the Spanish territory out of the economic recovery. The major job-generating regions in Spain remain Madrid, the Basque Country, Barcelona and the Canary and Balearic archipelagos, to the detriment of central Spain.

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