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 US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid