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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid