More than Three Million Unemployed, and more than a Million without any Welfare Benefits

More than one million unemployed Spanish are without Welfare benefits (except for Health Care) [ 1,044,022 ] and according to most studies there will be 400,000 more come next May.  Towards the end of the year the jobless situation will get much worse and still more Spanish people will lose their Welfare payments.

That’s not counting Illegal Immigrants, who may number One Million, do not have any rights to Unemployment Benefits and most won’t be able to get any jobs.

Spain doesn’t have a Job Seekers Allowance system, like Britain and other European countries.  It has a form of Insurance included in the Social Security System, whereas the unemployed get different amounts of money during different times according to the length of their contributions and the money they put into the system -this system used to work just fine in prosperous times but it is now failing badly.  In any case it doesn’t last longer than a year and a half, all included.  As many people have been on short contracts, they have rights to only a short time of Welfare payments, that’s why there will be 400,000 more without benefits by next May.

This is the National System.  Some parts of Spain -we have a quasi-federal State- do have Welfare Benefits for the poor, but this is not generally the case.  Neither are Food Stamps, or the equivalent, generally available.  The Catholic Church and Caritas do a very good job helping the homeless and the poor, and they are baffled by a sudden influx of working class and middle class people suddenly destitute.

What Spain has is a very strong family network that supports the unemployed -and the workshy, it has to be said.  The strains are starting to show, as now too many unemployed are urban people and so their family links tend to be weaker, and they can’t go back to the land.  The previously unknown now happens, whole families in which no one has a job and no benefits too, and there are more than 600,000 of them.  Obviously illegal immigrants don’t have a family to help them, rather the other way around, many have families to support in Spain or in the country they came from.

Unemployment may reach Four million people by the end of 2009.  That is if the car factories do not close for good, as I believe it is most likely, in which case all bets are off.  Spain is (or was) a big car making and exporting country, but all the car factories are foreign owned -GM, Citroen, Peugeot, Renault, Ford, VW, etc.  It is very likely that in the present situation they will keep production in their homeland, -Germany, France, the USA, Japan- and stop production abroad or limit it to politically important European countries -like Britain and Germany.

The Spanish Trade Unions UGT and CC.OO. are starting to get restless, and the glacial reaction of the Government of Spain and the lack of any reaction at all from the local governments -many of them in the hands of the Opposition, they see political capital in doing nothing at all and let the situation rot and explode in the face of Zapatero and the PSOE- presages a Spring of Discontent, Strikes, Demonstrations and worse.

Curiously, there are parts of Spain where foreign workers in the Tens of Thousands  get hired legally and under contract -from Morocco, Latin America and even from as far away as the Philippines- for example in Huelva, in the Strawberry fields and also in Almería in the greenhouses.  The locals even if unemployed, as long as they draw unemployment benefits are not interested in working picking up strawberries -you have to bend your back, that hurts man, and it pays much less than building work, so they leave that to the Moorish girls, who after all also have a right to live, and work-  and the unemployed from big cities like Madrid or Alicante can hardly move to work in Huelva -500 kms away- as they own their own homes in the cities and there aren’t any flats to be let in Huelva.  Most Spanish workers have never seen the inside of a trailer home, it is absolutely a non-Spanish way of life.

Societies with a high percentage of home ownership, like Spain, also may have high unemployment because the mobility of people suffers.

At the same time there is unfilled demand for many unusual jobs, like croupiers, shepherds, medical doctors, nurses, some metal workers, morticians, technicians of many kinds, etc.  Many Latinoamerican MDs and nurses move to Spain and find jobs immediately because they don’t mind moving to the Canary islands, for example (where there is a high demand because of the aging European residents), or to a small town somewhere, while an unemployed MD in Madrid is disinclined to do so.

The big problem is the great mass of unqualified people who were working at building sites, and the technicians, plasterers, plumbers, etc., and the workers in related industries who now find themselves without jobs.

Many Spaniards are going to find it very difficult to adapt to these new, hard times.  The Government doesn’t seem to have a clue, and do not let me get started with the PP opposition, they are a joke.

Por Armando

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