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TECHNOLOGY

Food delivery robots land in the Spanish capital 

People in Madrid will soon be able to have their pizza delivered to them by a robot as popular delivery company Glovo prepares to launch autonomous pods on wheels which take food from the store to people’s doorsteps.

food delivery robot spain
For now, the delivery roboto will operate only in pedestrian areas and its radius of operations will be of one kilometre around. Photo: Goggo Network

Courier company Glovo and robotics specialists Goggo Network will in the coming days launch the first robot delivery service in Spain. 

These fully automated robots (no remote driver unless needed) will start to operate between the upmarket neighbourhoods of Goya and Retiro in central Madrid. 

When Glovo receives an order, a robot will go to the designated supermarket where the food and other goods that have been ordered by the customer will be prepared and packed into the robot, which will then drive itself to the customer’s address and notify them once they arrive. 

So for customers, it’s practically the same as when they usually order food to be delivered, only that instead of opening the door to a human rider it will instead be a robot.

The device is electrically powered and rides at a maximum speed of 5km/h, about walking pace. It’s also relatively small in size: 80 cm high, 80 cm long and 40 cm wide, and weighs around 40 kg. 

For now, it will operate only around pedestrian areas and its radius of operations will be of one kilometre. 

This will serve as a testing ground for its safety and a team of humans will be supervising how pedestrians adapt to its presence as it moves around Madrid’s Barrio de Salamanca.

In recent years similar robotic rollouts have been tested and remain in use in some areas in the United Kingdom, the United States and China. 

The English cities of Northampton and Milton Keynes now have 200 shopping delivery robots operating successfully in each, with no reported accidents.

In the US however, they have drawn some criticism from unions who fear these food delivery robots, on wheels or in the air in the form of drones, will result in jobs being taken from people. 

The two food delivery robots Goggo will soon launch in Spain, the ‘food truck’ model and the smaller door-to-door robot. Photo: Goggo Network

It may be a while before these robot riders are introduced widely across Spain, but Goggo Network does have another autonomous mobility device they plan to launch: a mix between a food truck and a vending machine that will move around the Spanish capital serving food. 

If the launch of both smart delivery devices is successful, Goggo Network co-founder Yasmine Faige believes the automated service could soon be used by retail stores and eventually as a means of travel, but first they have to find out “how people (in Spain) will react” to the arrival of these futuristic devices. 

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WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.




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