News / Europe

    Spain Sets Europe's Unemployment Record, But Remains Economic Engine

    People line up to enter a government employment benefit office in Madrid on Monday, April 4, 2011
    People line up to enter a government employment benefit office in Madrid on Monday, April 4, 2011
    Lauren Frayer

    With southern Europe struggling under public debt, inflation and scant growth, Spain has broken a European record for unemployment.  More than one in five Spaniards are out of work, posing a threat to quick recovery for southern Europe's biggest economy, and the region as a whole.       

    Mre than one in five working-age Spaniards are unemployed - more than in any other country in Europe.  Spain's jobless rate has hit a 15-year high, nearly double the figure in neighboring Portugal.       

    But many Spaniards do not believe that number is accurate.  Retiree Luis Cases says that in his hometown of Valencia, it feels like 95 percent of people are out of work.

    "The people I know, it's 95 percent, no work," he said.  "It's a bad situation for young people - and old men."

    Cases describes what he thinks of the official jobless rate of 21.3 percent.

    "No, rubbish!  The government says rubbish!  No, no, it's more, more, more,"  he said.  "It's very, very difficult.  There's no money.  The young want to get married, have children and house.  But where is the money?"

    Spain is southern Europe's economic engine, and is in better shape to survive the global economic crisis than its neighbors.  Ailing Portugal and Greece have asked for European bailouts, along with Ireland.  But those countries have far fewer people out of work, raising the question of whether Spain's jobless rate is accurate, and what role unemployment actually plays in a country's economic well-being.

    Aroa Lopez, from Madrid, says she thinks the Spanish government figure is too high, because many Spaniards collect unemployment benefits but still work at restaurants or other jobs where they are paid in cash.  

    "So many people take this money," she said.  "It's difficult, because the government, when you don't have a job, pay you around two or three years.  The government pays you, and it's very easy.  So many people take the government money and have another job."

    Vanessa Rossi, an economist at London's Chatham House think tank, acknowledges that the way governments calculate unemployment data could be problematic.  While Portugal and Greece tend to under-report their jobless numbers, Spain may be doing just the opposite.      

    "The Spanish unemployment rate might actually be slightly lower than these figures," she said.  "That's quite in contrast to many other countries that have the opposite problem - they under-report unemployment."

    The Greek jobless rate is 15 percent - still a national record.  Portugal's is around 11 percent.  That is nearly half the rate in Spain, but unemployment has still hit Greece and Portugal harder.  Rossi says it is because in Spain, high unemployment has long been a fact of life, even when the economy is booming.  She says the remarkable thing is how low Spain's unemployment got a few years ago, during a huge construction boom - not how high it is now.     

    "In a sense, Spain's reverted to its previous model.  It's not that it's unusual compared to its history, it's actually quite usual," she said.  "And it's all the usual problems that were there before that property splurge."

    The question is why Spain's unemployment has always been high, compared to the rest of southern Europe.  Rossi offers one theory.       

    "It seems to be partly a structural issue in the way the employment laws operate," she said.  "There's a reluctance to give people full employment.  There are relatively few fixed jobs with full employment security."

    She says Greece and Portugal have slightly different labor laws that do not end up exacerbating unemployment.  But Rossi says Spain is still in better financial shape overall.

    "In relation to the economy, I think it [Spain] could start to look a little livelier, and it need not go into the crisis that we've seen in Portugal, because the finances are a bit better," he said.  "But that doesn't mean that you can get away from this unemployment problem that's been so persistent."

    That persistent problem is on the minds of recent college graduates like Laura Lopez, who studied to be a teacher but now can't find a job.       

    "Last year, I finished my degree, but I couldn't find a job," she said. "So I have to define my life in other things."

    Lopez says she and her friends are all under-employed, working in restaurants or part-time, even though they have university degrees.  Such stories are common across southern Europe.  And none of them is counted in official unemployment figures.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.