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Joining the ranks

I'm not talking about the armed forces here. No, the four million-odd people in Spain who are now out of a job. For those of us who are unaware (I can't believe anyone who lives in Spain hasn`t heard), the numbers of unemployed in Spain hit 4,612,700, or 20% of the population, in the first three months of this year. For the benefit of readers who don't live here, the word for unemployed is parado/a (pronounced "parow", rhymes with "how", if you are really andaluz and don't say your "d"s), and unemployment benefit - dole - is paro. The figures are truly shocking - 1,300,000 homes in Spain have all members of their household out of work. Andalucia is one of the worst-affected regions in the whole country (1,080,900 parados), with four provinces - half the region - among five with the highest unemployment rates nationally (Cadiz, Malaga, Almeria and Granada; the first two have over 30% unemployment). Huelva and Sevilla are also in the top ten. Only Jaen is below 20%. The mean figure for Andalucia is 27.21%, way higher than the national average, and nearly half a million people (437,800) have been looking for work for over a year. In 319,300 homes here, all household members are parado. Looking at the figures, agricultural workers are one of the least affected, with 52,000 new jobs, while industry and services each lost around 80,000, and construction was the hardest hit, with 160,000. Construction isn't surprising - there are countless half-finished buildings near us - but at least the terrible storms and endless rain earlier in the year didn't destroy all the crops. On Saturday, 1 May, Dia del Trabajador (Workers' Day), the unions had their usual demonstrations across Andalucia's major cities (including Seville, Granada and Malaga, whose province has the second-highest rate nationally) with 43,000 workers coming out onto the streets (although estimates vary wildly, as always on these occasions, depending on whether you believe the organisers - even the two unions didn't agree with each other - how andaluz! - or the police). The unions are predicting that it will reach five million soon, although the Ministra de Economía y Hacienda (our Darling), Elena Salgado, naturally denies this. The conservative newspaper, ABC, made the most of the occasion (understandably, I think they were speaking for Spaniards of all political persuasions here) when they said, "there isn't the slightest hope that the government is capable of turning the situation round, even though it insists, month after month, that the crisis has bottomed out and more jobs will the created soon." Not a typically right-ish media fan, I have to find myself agreeing with them. We're still in the tunnel, with no sign of light yet. I have a personal, vested interest in all this - my husband became one of the many at the end of February (on Friday of the Dia de Andalucia puente, with exquisite timing by his ex-employers). It wasn't unexpected as such - there had been rumours in the company for some time - but the manner of doing it (by phone), and the timing - just before a puente, and just after a pay-rise - were particularly unpleasant, I thought. He has since had problems getting his paro (hasn't received a centimo yet) due to a dispute with his ex-employer which I probably shouldn't go into as it is the subject of legal proceedings. Even if I could talk about it, I wouldn't be able to, since I can barely fathom the legal wranglings - documentation, different stages of proceedings, and terminology - myself, let alone explain it to someone else. As a well-qualified engineer, I don't doubt that he will find something else before too long, but it's not pleasant with two small children. But then, how can I complain when many other people have grown-up children still living with them, whom they have to support, and even grandchildren, or parents, as well. Yes, there's always someone worse off than you. On a cheerier note, some more positive statistics for a Monday, especially for fellow-Andalucia dwellers: a recent survey said that nine of ten Britons working abroad believe their quality of life has improved for leaving home, including a better work-life balance, and that fewer than two in ten expect that they'll even return. Let's think about this: rain, cold, stress and crowded, smelly tube full of grumpy commuters v sun, warmth, Spanish attitude and bus - hmmm...
Blog published on 3 May 2010