• Spain's news in English
Spain's 'disposable' workers become main election issue
Photo: AFP

Spain's 'disposable' workers become main election issue

AFP · 15 Jun 2016, 09:15

Published: 15 Jun 2016 09:16 GMT+02:00
Updated: 15 Jun 2016 09:15 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"They hire you, they ditch you, they hire you and they ditch you again."

Young and unemployed, Elena Martin sums up how difficult it has become to find a stable job in Spain, an issue that has made its way to the centre of sometimes acrimonious debate ahead of June 26th elections - the second in six months.

After seven years of economic crisis, the country returned to growth in 2014 and has seen its jobless queue shorten, with unemployment now standing at 20.1 percent from a peak of 26.9 percent in early 2013.

But that is still the second highest level in the 28-nation European Union after Greece.

And when acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vaunts his government's creation of 500,000 jobs a year as part of his re-election bid, his opponents retort that Spain is marred by "widespread precarity", "junk contracts" and "poor workers".

Economist Raymond Torres, special advisor to the head of the International Labour Organization (ILO), points to a "strong recovery" but adds that "Spain is still creating mainly precarious, temporary, unwanted part-time jobs."

According to the country's labour ministry, 90 percent of contracts that have been signed since the beginning of the year have been temporary.

And even acting Economy Minister Luis de Guindos has spoken of the "scourge" of temporary contracts.

"This makes sense at the beginning of a period of recovery as companies don't really know what to expect," says Torres, but he adds that the general instability of jobs is causing a structural problem in Spain.

Marcel Jansen, economics professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid, says Spain's economy relies increasingly on low-value, low-skilled jobs in sectors such as tourism or telemarketing, which don't pay well.

And crucially, Spanish entrepreneurs are now in the habit of considering that "their workers can be used and discarded like papers napkins," he says.

"There are a lot of contracts that last less than a week and recently there has been talk of a boom in contracts that last just one day."

'Completely exploited' 

The average length of contracts has gone from 79 days in 2006 to 53.4 last year, according to official figures.

Standing outside a job seekers' office in Madrid, Martin says she has highlighted on her CV that she is "completely available", which she hopes will compensate for her lack of university degree.

But since 2008, the 26-year-old has only managed to get a few fleeting jobs - phone operator, manager of a clothes shop where she was "completely exploited", waitress and cashier.

And work instability is not only the preserve of those with no degree or few qualifications.

It also affects areas such as public health, with doctors and nurses often recruited part time, sometimes for just one weekend, says Manuel Lago, an economist at Spain's largest trade union, the CCOO.

"Over the past ten years, 161 million work contracts have been signed in a country that counts an average of 14.5 million people in its workforce," he says.

"That means that people keep entering and leaving companies and changing posts, activity and sectors at a frenetic pace."

Story continues below…

A 2012 labour reform brought in by the conservatives has done little to alleviate the problem, and critics say it has actually worsened it.

The reform has for instance brought in permanent contracts with one-year trial periods for companies with less than 50 employees, at the end of which a worker can be fired without explanation or compensation.

Dwindling salaries are also at the heart of the pre-electoral debate.

"There has been a marked increase in poor workers earning less than €690 a month," says Torres.

To remedy this, Spain could increase its minimum wage - which stood at €757 a month over 12 months in 2015 - by 10 percent over three years without harming competitiveness or job creation, the ILO said in January.

By Laurence Boutreux/AFP 

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Eta 'not dead' but Spain focus moves onto jihadism
Archive photo of a pro-mural in the Basque Country. Photo: AFP

Five years after Eta quit violence, the Basque separatist group has yet to dissolve but it poses little threat and authorities have shifted their focus to fight jihadists, says Spain's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available