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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

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.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs