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'National disaster': Spain sees 500% rise in ‘very long-term unemployment’

Published time: May 30, 2014 20:13
People wait to enter a government-run employment office in Madrid April 29, 2014. (Reuters/Andrea Comas)

People wait to enter a government-run employment office in Madrid April 29, 2014. (Reuters/Andrea Comas)

Over one million people in Spain - the eurozone's fourth largest economy - haven't had a job since 2010, according to a report by Spain's National Statistics Institute. Although this number continues to rise, the government says it's witnessing recovery.

The numbers, published on May 23, show that “very long-term unemployment” in the country has risen by more than 500 percent since 2007. That year, about 250,000 Spaniards were unemployed after losing their job at least three years prior. That number drastically rose to 1.27 million in 2013 - 234,000 more than in 2012.

Generally, long-term unemployment includes jobless workers who have not been employed for more than 27 weeks. The recent study shows that this category in Spain has transformed to very long-term unemployment, with hundreds of thousands people without a job for at least three years, and is now represented by over 23 percent of the total jobless population in Spain.

The number is much higher than in other countries in the region at the same economic level, with another recent study showing that 26 percent of the country's population is on government benefits in Spain - the second highest total in the EU after Greece.

Demonstrators of the General Confederation of Work (CGT) march during May Day celebrations in Valencia May 1, 2014. The banner reads, "Against unemployment, corruption and repression. Dignity and struggle". (Reuter/Heino Kalis)

Still, politicians claim the nation emerged from years of on-and-off recession in mid-2013 and the situation continues to improve. On May 29, Spain reported its fastest economic growth since 2008, when the ten-year property bubble burst and prompted a financial crisis.

With millions of people searching for work in vain in the eurozone's fourth largest economy (behind Germany, France, and Italy), the International Monetary Fund said this week that the country's recovery is here to stay. “Spain has turned the corner,” the IMF's annual report on the country's economy stated.

Earlier this year, Spain’s Economy Minister Luis de Guindos told parliament that in 2013 the economy saw the fastest growth the country had seen in six years. A couple months later, a study by Spain’s second biggest bank, BBVA, said that unemployment rates would take over a decade to recover to pre-crisis levels.

People have breakfasts at a soup kitchen in Barcelona. (AFP Photo/Lluis Gene)

Older jobless Spaniards are in a worse position than younger ones, who are more flexible and can emigrate and try to find work in other countries. But those with families and financial commitments are in danger of never finding work again. Edward Hugh, a British economist based in Spain, told the Spain Report that the situation is disastrous: "Many of these people are now 'structurally unemployed,' and many of those over 50 may never work again. It’s a national disaster,” he said.

Spain's new, smaller parties earned a relatively high number of votes in the recent EU elections. One of the newcomers, the Podemos (We Can) party, received almost eight percent of the votes, enough for five seats in the European Parliament. One of the political movement's MPs told The Spain Report that "a howl of protest against the unfairness, crushed dreams and hopeless futures caused by the existing economic system” is at the heart of the new party's support base.

A protester delivers a speech through a megaphone during a demonstration outside the central employment office in Valencia, April 30, 2014. (Reuters/Heino Kali)

Among the thousands of people who have taken to the streets protesting Spain's austerity measures and unemployment situation over the years, males who studied environmental protection and females with degrees in architecture and construction training are in the worst positions in terms of finding a job. The latest report shows that unemployment rates in these sectors are the highest, up to 47 percent. The programs that showed the lowest rates of unemployment for both genders were mathematics and statistics.

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