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Joining the ranks

May 3, 2010 – 11:56 am

I’m not talking about the armed forces here. No, the four million-odd people in Spain who are now out of a job. For those of us who are unaware (I can’t believe anyone who lives in Spain hasn`t heard), the numbers of unemployed in Spain hit 4,612,700, or 20% of the population, in the first three months of this year. For the benefit of readers who don’t live here, the word for unemployed is parado/a (pronounced “parow”, rhymes with “how”, if you are really andaluz and don’t say your “d”s), and unemployment benefit – dole – is paro.

The figures are truly shocking – 1,300,000 homes in Spain have all members of their household out of work. Andalucia is one of the worst-affected regions in the whole country (1,080,900 parados), with four provinces – half the region – among five with the highest unemployment rates nationally (Cadiz, Malaga, Almeria and Granada; the first two have over 30% unemployment). Huelva and Sevilla are also in the top ten. Only Jaen is below 20%. The mean figure for Andalucia is 27.21%, way higher than the national average, and nearly half a million people (437,800) have been looking for work for over a year. In 319,300 homes here, all household members are parado.

Looking at the figures, agricultural workers are one of the least affected, with 52,000 new jobs, while industry and services each lost around 80,000, and construction was the hardest hit, with 160,000. Construction isn’t surprising – there are countless half-finished buildings near us – but at least the terrible storms and endless rain earlier in the year didn’t destroy all the crops.

On Saturday, 1 May, Dia del Trabajador (Workers’ Day), the unions had their usual demonstrations across Andalucia’s major cities (including Seville, Granada and Malaga, whose province has the second-highest rate nationally) with 43,000 workers coming out onto the streets (although estimates vary wildly, as always on these occasions, depending on whether you believe the organisers – even the two unions didn’t agree with each other – how andaluz! – or the police). The unions are predicting that it will reach five million soon, although the Ministra de Economía y Hacienda (our Darling), Elena Salgado, naturally denies this.

The conservative newspaper, ABC, made the most of the occasion (understandably, I think they were speaking for Spaniards of all political persuasions here) when they said, “there isn’t the slightest hope that the government is capable of turning the situation round, even though it insists, month after month, that the crisis has bottomed out and more jobs will the created soon.” Not a typically right-ish media fan, I have to find myself agreeing with them. We’re still in the tunnel, with no sign of light yet.

I have a personal, vested interest in all this – my husband became one of the many at the end of February (on Friday of the Dia de Andalucia puente, with exquisite timing by his ex-employers). It wasn’t unexpected as such – there had been rumours in the company for some time – but the manner of doing it (by phone), and the timing – just before a puente, and just after a pay-rise – were particularly unpleasant, I thought. He has since had problems getting his paro (hasn’t received a centimo yet) due to a dispute with his ex-employer which I probably shouldn’t go into as it is the subject of legal proceedings. Even if I could talk about it, I wouldn’t be able to, since I can barely fathom the legal wranglings – documentation, different stages of proceedings, and terminology – myself, let alone explain it to someone else. As a well-qualified engineer, I don’t doubt that he will find something else before too long, but it’s not pleasant with two small children. But then, how can I complain when many other people have grown-up children still living with them, whom they have to support, and even grandchildren, or parents, as well. Yes, there’s always someone worse off than you.

On a cheerier note, some more positive statistics for a Monday, especially for fellow-Andalucia dwellers: a recent survey said that nine of ten Britons working abroad believe their quality of life has improved for leaving home, including a better work-life balance, and that fewer than two in ten expect that they’ll even return. Let’s think about this: rain, cold, stress and crowded, smelly tube full of grumpy commuters v sun, warmth, Spanish attitude and bus – hmmm…

  1. 7 Responses to “Joining the ranks”

  2. But for Greece, the true horror of the state Spain is in would be headline news daily – in all but the xenophobic UK.
    Spain is a country led by a clown. With a workforce who either can’t find work or who don’t wish to work. For whom holidays and working as little as possible is all that counts. A country that is hopeless at tourism but brilliant at building lots of illegal properties that nobody wants to buy. Spain is brilliant at corruption but no good at creation. A land of opportuniy say some. Tell that to the millions who cannot find work.
    As for the so called “survey” of Brits living in Spain. 1. That was a tiny survey and 2. It was carried out in places which are about as Spanish as fish and chips.
    The true facts give a lie to that survey. Expats are going back in their droves. The exodus is huge and shows no sign of stopping.
    And i for one can’t blame them. They’re going back for many reasons. Not least the fact that prices in UK supermarkets are cheaper. That you can get things done in the UK (when you want to get them done). Because utility bills are more competitive. Because they will not have Telefonica and Endesa ripping them off.
    Oh, and after record rainfall for three months last winter, not even the Spanish sunshine can keep them here now. The dream has died and Spain is bankrupt.

    By Vern on May 3, 2010

  3. Thanks for your comment, Vern. The survey wasn´t only of Brits living in Spain, but British expats all over the world. Also, it said that the amount of expats who are returning to the UK actually dropped again last year. I agree with you that Spain is in a dire situation, but there are still many Brits living here who won’t be going back, including me. I’m settled here now, and have made a life for myself, so I will just have to get through it like everyone else.

    By fiona on May 3, 2010

  4. And Portugal situation ain’t great either I hear. Keep me posted – will the current situation change your plans to come over to UK in summer when it’s really hot or just your husband’s?

    By Helen Maher on May 5, 2010

  5. Helen, only another volanic ash cloud would keep me away from the UK in August. In fact, I will be there even it means having to travel overland with the kids for a week. Paco will probably join us for a week or so, hopefully two, though of course depends if he’s found a job by then!

    By fiona on May 6, 2010

  6. >I’m settled here now, and have made a life
    >for myself

    Means nothing, it is whether you can survive here that is the issue. Vern is quite correct. If you can’t find a job or can’t survive on your pension, then you’ll be heading back too, Admin.

    By Tony on May 25, 2010

  7. OK, I probably didn’t explain myself, Tony. I’m married to a Spaniard, who is out of work, like many. He doesn’t have a dog’s chance of getting a job in England, as he doesn’t speak English, so there’s absolutely no point whatsoever in us going there, having to buy a property we can’t afford etc etc. We are staying here come what may. As I explained, I am settled here. I think my situation may be different to that of some other expats’.

    By fiona on May 25, 2010

  8. Vern says UK supermarkets are cheaper … than what? Corte Inglés or Carrefour? I live very well in Spain on my UK pension because I shop and eat the way my Spanish neighbours do. I can fill a shopping trolley with fresh fruit and veg for less than 10 euros, and a little meat goes a long way. Drinks here are 1 euro each (except for Rioja which is 1.50) and we have free music concerts all summer.

    It’s true that telecomms are expensive here but now that Telefonica – sorry, Movistar – has some competition they are getting much cheaper. Council tax, water rates and public transport are a fraction of UK rates and gas bills are much lower because you only need heating on for 3 months of the year.

    I think people must be mad or deluded to think they can live more cheaply in England – especially after the double-headed clown currently in charge there has dismantled the welfare state!

    By Claire on Jul 28, 2010

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