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Struggling families sign off on painful 2013

George Mills · 31 Dec 2013, 12:50

Published: 31 Dec 2013 12:50 GMT+01:00

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Some 60 percent of Spanish families say they have less money coming in than a year ago, survey results published on Tuesday in Spain's centre-right El Mundo newspaper reveal.

The results also show just 3.7 percent of Spanish families have fatter wallets now than at the end of 2012.

On top of this, almost two in every three Spaniards believe the country's economic situation has become worse in 2013 while only 13 percent say things are rosier.

The El Mundo poll also signals a big thumbs down for Spain's ruling conservative Popular Party, with three quarters of respondents saying government policies aren't bearing fruit. 

These results — based on 1,000 interviews — are a slap in the face for the government which has battled to inject a note of confidence into discourse on the state of Spain's economy.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy recently announced that his predictions for 2013 had come true, with a difficult first six months giving way to macroeconomic improvement in the second half of the year.

In a speech in the country's parliament, Rajoy said the closure of the country's bank rescue package and the end of Spain's recession were signs that the economy was on the upswing. He also stressed Spain's "record" growth in exports, currently running at 6 percent.

Rajoy added 2014 would be a turnaround year for Spain, with more new jobs. The government also expects 0.7-percent growth in 2014. 

But analysts are unsure about whether this will lead to net job creation. And the El Mundo poll suggests many Spaniards share that lack of optimism.

Spain's unemployment level is still at 25.98 percent and public debt is around 100 percent of gross domestic product. In August, the IMF predicted that Spain faced five more years of unemployment above 25 percent.

Spain has also frozen its minimum wage for 2014 at €645.30 per month, one of the lowest levels in Europe, while pensions are set to rise by just 0.25 percent.

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Many long-term unemployed people have already lost their subsistence benefits of €426 a month, and average unemployment benefits are set for a 1.4 percent dip in 2014 from €890 a month to €877, Spain's El País reported.

Even relatively stable prices for consumer goods have to be set against rises in electricity and transport costs in the news year. 

Meanwhile, Spain's Ibex share index added 21.4 percent in value in 2013, and investors expect more strong gains in 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

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George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

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