Wanted: Foreigners and unemployed to work on Spain’s farms and boost agriculture during coronavirus crisis

The Spanish government said Tuesday it will make it easier for migrants and the unemployed to work in agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wanted: Foreigners and unemployed to work on Spain's farms and boost agriculture during coronavirus crisis
Strawberries need harvesting in Huelva. Photo: AFP

The availability of such workers had been “clearly restricted” due to curbs on movement to contain the spread of the virus, said the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas.

But if farmers failed to carry out harvests coming due, prices would rise due to shortages of produce, he warned.

Two-thirds of Spain's production goes to European markets, he said, calling agricultural exports “a very important source of income”.   

Spain traditionally uses thousands of seasonal workers from abroad to pick stone fruits.

Many harvesting seasons start in the coming weeks.    

The production of strawberries in the province of Huelva represents 90 per cent of the European market at this time of year.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government has approved a decree to guarantee until June 30th the workforce needed for food production, estimated to be “between 75,000 and 80,000 workers”, Planas said.   

It will allow the hiring of both the jobless, who will be allowed to keep their unemployment benefits, and foreigners who are “legal residents in Spain”, said Planas.

If their work permits expire before June 30th “they will be renewed”, he added.   

The policy also targets “young foreigners between 18 and 21 years old, for whom a work permit can be provided so they can perform these tasks”, he said.


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Spain’s middle-class youngsters the most likely to end up poor across all EU

Spain leads the ranking of EU countries with the highest risk of young people ending up in poverty as adults, despite coming from families without economic difficulties.

Spain is the fourth EU country with the highest inherited poverty
Spain is EU country with most middle-class young people who end up poor. Photo: Jaime ALEKOS / AFP

Spain is also the fourth EU country with the highest rate of inherited poverty risk, according to Eurostat, the EU Statistical Office.

Data on intergenerational poverty indicates that there is a correlation between the financial situation of the household you grew up in and the risk of being poor when you reach adulthood and in Spain, there is a strong link. 

The latest statistics available from 2019 show that the at-risk-of-poverty rate for the EU was 23 percent among adults aged 25 to 59 who grew up in a poor financial situation at home when they were 14 years old. This is 9.6 percentage points more than those who come from families without financial problems (13.4 percent). 

READ ALSO: Spain’s inflation soars to 29-year high

How the situation in Spain compares with the EU

Spain has become the EU country with the highest risk of poverty among adults who grew up in families with a good financial situation  – 16.6 percent.

This was followed by Latvia with 16 percent and Italy with 15.9 percent.

That statistics also show the countries where it is less likely to be poor after growing up in households without economic difficulties. These include the Czech Republic (5.9 percent), Slovakia (7.9 percent) and Finland (8.5 percent).

The overall poverty rate in the EU decreased by 0.1 percentage points between 2011 (13.5 percent) and 2019 (13.4 percent), but the largest increases were seen in Denmark (1.9 points more), Portugal (1.8 points), the Netherlands (1.7 points) and Spain (1.2 points).  

On the other hand, the biggest decreases in the poverty rate were seen in Croatia (-4 percent), Lithuania (-3.6 percent), Slovakia (-3.5 percent) and Ireland (-3.2 percent).

READ ALSO: Spain’s government feels heat as economic recovery lags

Inherited poverty

The stats revealed that Spain was also the fourth country with the highest rate of inherited poverty risk (30 percent), only behind Bulgaria (40.1 percent), Romania (32.7 percent) and Italy (30.7 percent).

This means that children of poor parents in Spain are also likely to be poor in adulthood. 

The countries with the lowest rate of inherited poverty risk were the Czech Republic (10.2 percent), Denmark (10.3 percent) and Finland (10.5 percent).

The average risk-of-poverty rate for the EU increased by 2.5 percentage points between 2011 (20.5 percent) and 2019 (23 percent), with the largest increases seen in Bulgaria (6 points more), Slovakia and Romania (4.3 points), Italy (4.2 points) and Spain (4.1 points).

The biggest drops were seen in Latvia (-8.5 points), Estonia (-8.0 points) and Croatia (-2.3 points). 

The largest gaps in people at risk of poverty when they reach adulthood were in Bulgaria (27.6 percentage points more among those who belong to families with a poor economic situation as teenagers compared to those who grew up in wealthy households), Romania (17.1), Italy (14.8), Greece (13.5) and Spain (13.4).