Thousands rally in Spain’s capital for pay hikes as living costs soar

Thousands of people took to the streets of Madrid on Thursday to demand higher wages to cope with soaring inflation and energy costs.

Thousands rally in Spain's capital for pay hikes as living costs soar
Protestors wave trade union flags during a demonstration called by the CCOO and UGT trade unions, demanding decent wage increases to maintain purchasing power, on the Plaza Mayor square in Madrid on November 3, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Protestors waved red union flags and banged drums as they made their way to the Spanish capital’s landmark Plaza Mayor square behind a large banner that read: “Salary or Conflict”.

Police estimate some 25,000 people took part in the demonstration, which was called by Spain’s two main unions, the CCOO and UGT.

“Either there is a rise in salaries or work conflicts will increase exponentially in our country over the next year,” CCOO secretary general Unai Sordo told reporters at the protest.

Like other countries, Spain has been struggling with soaring inflation as a result of the fallout from the war in Ukraine and the reopening of the economy after pandemic-related lockdowns.

Inflation in Spain peaked this summer at 10.8 percent in July, its highest level in 38 years, before moderately slowing to 7.3 percent in October — still well above normal levels.

“Salaries are still super low” while the cost of “essentials” has soared, María Luisa Ortega, a 57-year-old service sector worker, told AFP at the protest.

A protestor holds a sign reading ” ‘It’s inflation’ shouts the thief” during a demonstration called by the CCOO and UGT trade unions, demanding decent wage increases to maintain purchasing power, in Madrid on November 3, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

She said salary raises must match the rise in inflation.

The protest comes as Spain’s leftist government is negotiating with unions and business groups a new increase in the minimum wage, which is currently set at €1,000 ($987) a month.

Far-left party Podemos, the junior partner in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s coalition government, is calling for a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage.

But Spain’s main business association CEOE has ruled out pay hikes in line with inflation, arguing they will hurt firms, especially smaller ones, although it is open to discuss more modest increases.

The government has vowed to lift the minimum wage to 60 percent of Spain’s average salary by the end of its term in office in December 2023, bringing it in line with the level of its European neighbours.

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REVEALED: Where are Spain’s poorest neighbourhoods?

Data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) has revealed the two poorest neighbourhoods in Spain, where inhabitants earn the lowest amount of income in the country.

REVEALED: Where are Spain's poorest neighbourhoods?

The report showed that the four poorest neighbourhoods in Spain can all be found in the cities of Seville and Alicante.

The barrios (neighbourhoods) are Polígono Sur and Los Pajaritos y Amate in Seville and Juan XXIII in Alicante.  

Those in Seville’s Polígono Sur earned the least amount with an average of just €5,666 per year. In fact, other areas in both Seville and Alicante appeared again on the list of the ten next poorest neighborhoods in the country with those in Seville being listed six times out of the top 15. 

All but four of the poorest ones were located in Andalusia, with the others are found in Alicante, Madrid and Murcia. 

This is the complete list of the 15 neighbourhoods with the lowest income per capita in Spain, according to the latest available data, collected in 2019:

  • Polígono Sur (Seville) – €5,666 
  • Los Pajaritos y Amate (Sevilla) – €6,042
  • Juan XXIII (Alicante) – €6,272
  • Torreblanca (Seville) – €6,801
  • San Cristóbal (Madrid) – €6,955
  • Azahara-Palmeras (Córdoba) – €7,361 
  • Polígono del Guadalquivir (Córdoba) – €7,380
  • Alicante Distrito 5A (Alicante) – €7,425
  • Palma-Palmilla (Málaga) – €7,683
  • Palmete-Padre Pío (Seville) – €7,724
  • Sector Sur (Córdoba) – €8,100
  • Olivia-Letanías (Seville) – €8.111
  • Norte-Bazorla-Villegas (Seville) – €8,112
  • Murcia Distrito 8 (Murcia) – €8,385
  • Moreras-Huerta de la Reina (Córdoba) – €8,556

Sevillian towns such as Los Palacios – Villafranca and Lebrija and Alicante towns such as Torrevieja and Crevillente were also included in the top 20 poorest places with over 20,000 inhabitants. 

Interestingly, both provinces are among those that received the least investment in infrastructure from the General State Budget (PGE) between 1985 and 2018, according to a list of the Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility (AIReF), which takes into account the number of inhabitants for its calculation.

This may be about to change in Seville capital, however, which has received investments for the SE-40 ring road, the Centennial bridge and metro line 3 as part of the 2023 State Budget.

No extra investments have been given out to Alicante though, which “has one of the lowest per capita incomes in Spain, occupying position 44 out of 52,” the document stated. In terms of investment, the Alicante province receives less than de €85.40 per inhabitant. 

“This investment places us in the last place of investments per inhabitant, far from the penultimate province, which is Jaén with €110 per inhabitant,” residents of Alicante complained.  

The correlation between low investment and poor towns also occurs in Andalusian provinces such as Cádiz and Huelva, which are also among those that have received the least investment in infrastructure from the PGE between 1985 and 2018, according to AIReF. 

Towns in Cádiz and Huelva are also among the INE’s list of places with the poorest neighbourhoods, in addition to Almería, which received a mediocre amount of investment.