lunes, 17 de diciembre de 2012


Everybody knows the Christmas Carol “White Christmas” which reaches this year the age of 70. The Spanish translation of “White Christmas” is “Blanca Navidad” and currently the source of a very popular word game difficult to translate. Instead of “Blanca Navidad” everybody speaks of “Navidad sin Blanca”, literally something like “no white Christmas” that really means “Christmas without money”. It’s easy to guess the origin o such a joke: 26% of unemployment (36% with no unemployment benefits), 3 million of public employees without Christmas allowance and frozen salaries for years and over 60% of workers whose gross salary is bellow 1.000 €, without forgetting new taxes on health, education, transport or justice services and the increase of TVA and income tax.

The lack of money will have a clear impact on consumption. This Christmas the average expenditure per person (514 €) will fall by 4% regarding 2011 and 38% comparing 2008 data. It’s expected that 191 € will go to food expenditure, 163 € to gifts (mostly for children), 82 € to the very traditional Christmas Lottery and 78 € to leisure activities.

The crisis will reduce the Christmas budget but also consumption patterns. On January the 6th the most of the children will receive (cheaper) Christmas gifts from the Three Wise Men (they are much more popular than Santa Claus in Spain) but no adults.  There is no place to whims or surprises; this is the year of useful gifts such as clothes, shoes or household appliances that should be replaced. And something unthinkable until now: second hand gifts are welcome.  One of the “collateral damages” of the sharp decline of consumption is the closing-down of one out of four shops.

Happy New Year!

"Navidad sin Blanca" Christmas Carol

lunes, 29 de octubre de 2012


This week different reports have seen the light of the day showing that Spain has broken historical records (all negatives).  Last entry we addressed the issue of the Living Conditions Survey 2012. Today we’ll focus our attention on the Labour Force Survey (EPA, in Spanish) corresponding to third quarterly of the current year. We’ll stress the main findings and then we’ll try to reflect on them.

First of all, the EPA is one of the most rigorous surveys in Spain and the only accredited by the EU in relation to unemployment.

For the first time in history unemployment rose above 25% (25’02%). That means 5.778.100 unemployed people, 3’2 million more than five years ago. 96.000 employments were lost in the last quarterly, half of them in the public sector (direct outcome of budgetary cuts). Men and people between 25 – 35 years old are the most affected by job destruction.  The number of fixed-term and part-time contracts grows up meanwhile permanent contracts decrease. There are 1.737.900 homes wich all of households members are unemployed. Unemployment is expected to rise next year.

And now, some comments on unemployment figures. Since 2010 both socialist and people’s parties agrees that labour market was the most important Spanish problem. High unemployment rates or temporary contracts were supposed to be the obvious symptoms of an inefficient labour market.  So in both cases they decided to reform labour market laws making easier and cheaper redundancies, reducing salaries, undermining collective bargaining, increasing the power of employers and weakening union’s competences, setting new precarious contracts…  The outcome of all theses measures is in the last EPA: more unemployment and more precarious jobs and an uncover result: the ongoing transfer from labour incomes to capital incomes.

By the way! A new record to take into account: more than 1.200 demonstrations have taken place in Madrid in the first nine months of 2012.

Unemployed people - unemployment rate - homes wich all of households members are unemployed

miércoles, 24 de octubre de 2012


This week has been published the Living Conditions Survey 2012 by the National Statistics Institute (INE). This report is particularly significant because its statistical data are accredited and compatible for all EU member States. Let us see the main findings of the document:

·         The yearly average income of households reached 24.609 €, that is – 1’9% with respect to 2010 and around the amount of 2006.
·         21’1 % of people is at risk of poverty and for unemployed people the risk ups to 35’8%.
·         There is a broad regional gap. The risk of poverty is significantly lower in Navarra (8’8%), Asturias (9’9%) or the Basque Country (10’8%) than in Andalusia (31’7%), Extremadura (31’9%) or Canary Islands (33’8%).
·         12’7% of households says that it’s very difficult to make ends meet (+ 2’9% than 2011).
·         44’5% (+ 5’6%) of households can’t afford to pay for at least one week annual holiday away from home.
·         40% (+ 4’1%) of households cannot afford unforeseen expenses.
·         7’4% (+ 1’2%) of households delays payments related to the main residence (rent, mortgage, gas or electricity receipts…)

Also this week the Government has announced that unemployment will continue growing in 2013, the economy will decrease around 1’5% and we’ll face new budgetary cuts.


jueves, 11 de octubre de 2012


Four different news items related with our last entry were published this week.  First of all, we will refer to the so called Red Cross “Día de la Banderita” (Little Flag Day). Every year, thousand of Red Cross volunteers take the streets carrying piggy banks asking for money.  People give some coins (or bank notes) and they receive in return Red Cross stickers (“”banderitas”). The amount collected goes to specific vulnerable groups abroad: starving population in African countries, poor people affected by the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and so on. But this year the Red Cross Day was different. For the first time in history the money shall be used to fight poverty in Spain. This shows the current importance of poverty affecting Spanish people.  I suggest you to click the following link:

It’s a commercial (in Spanish) encouraging people to donate money to the Red Cross. The most striking image is the moment when volunteers aid to a father sharing a one-egg omelette between his two children.

Also regarding poverty, UNICEF has warned about the impact of the crisis on child poverty. 2.267.000 Spanish children (25%) are living bellow the poverty threshold (+ 4% than 2011). More than a half of them (14’4 %) suffer from severe poverty.

It’s hardly surprising this situation taking into account that Spanish households loss 18’4% of their wealth in 2011. According to the Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse is the largest drop of the Eurozone.

And finally we deal with the question of inequality. Eurostat shows an increasing gap between poor and rich people after the onset of the crisis. In fact never inequality had never before been higher. 34 was the Spanish Gini Coefficient in 2011, in other words, the worst EU score out of Latvia. But results can be worse. According to the so called “Ratio 80/20” (relation between the richest 20% and the poorest 20%), Spain is the winner in inequality (7’5) ahead of Latvia (7’3) and far away from Germany (4’6) or Norway (3’3).

Nevertheless, I’m deeply convinced that the most important finding is that all those reports agree that the source of poverty and inequality is unemployment, lower salaries and wages and social cuts. Austerity policies, in other words. Meanwhile, Van Rompuy today announced that Spain is in the right track. Astonishing!

sábado, 6 de octubre de 2012


Caritas has just published the “7th Report of the Observatory on Social Reality” assessing the impact in Spain of the current crisis. The most relevant findings of the report are as follows:

·         We witnessed a substantial increase of poverty, mostly due to unemployment and cuts in social protection. Nevertheless a job is not a guarantee of social inclusion:  2’5 million people (15% of working population) are poor workers.
·         Nowadays 25% of population is at risk of poverty, that means that Spain shows emerging countries ratios.
·         During the years of economic growth, net social spending increased but not the social spending/GDP ratio.
·         In 2011, Caritas attended three times more people (over 1’1 million) than in the onset of the crisis. 40% of people attended were in chronic poverty.
·         The most vulnerable groups are young couples with children and immigrants. But the most remarkable fact is the increasing number of former middle class people demanding aid.
·         320 € is the average income of people attended by Caritas, that is 50% bellow of poverty threshold.

Poverty is sharply increasing as well as inequity. There is a growing mixed feeling of indignation and hopeless

jueves, 27 de septiembre de 2012


Last July, Eurozone finance ministers agreed to grant the Spanish Government one more year to reach a deficit target of 3%. Thus, the deficit in 2012 won’t have to exceed a 6’3% instead of the initially foreseen 4%. Nevertheless, precisely because of austerity policies imposed by European authorities and the IMF (and firmly supported by the Spanish cabinet) the deficit in 2012 will be notably higher as well as in 2013 and 2014. So, everybody lies or everybody seems to believe their own lies.

Public spending has been reduced: thousands of public employees have been fired or their salaries have been lowered, national health and education systems have suffered deep cuts and the budget of other policies has been reduced as R&D (-20%) or development cooperation (-72%). Only two main budgetary headlines increases: unemployment benefits (even when the coverage rate of unemployed people receiving benefits is lower than previous years) and the interest payment of the public debt. It’s remarkable that, for the first time in the budgetary history of Spain, the interest payment of the debt is higher than the wages of all public employees (state, regional and local administrations). So regarding to public expenditure requirements the Spanish government is doing its homework.

What about of incomes?  First of all, TVA and Personal Income Tax were raised in the last six months.  Nevertheless public incomes have abruptly fallen as consequence of austerity policies. Private consumption is in coma due to 25% of unemployment and lower salaries. For instance, sales of new cars have been fallen continuously for the last 27 months. Car sales are now 70% lower than before the onset of the crisis (they are even bellow of Moroccan levels). So the collection from TVA and Personal Income Tax is fallen. It is estimated that the Spanish Tax Administration has lost 70 bn € (7% of Spanish GDP) due to austerity policies.

Incomes from corporate income tax also are at a very low level due to the lack of economic activity. However, it’s worth underlying some aspects of those taxes. Nominal corporate taxes are around 20-25%, depending on the size of the firm, but real taxation rate –after deductions- is 11’4%. In other words, taxation on workers is much higher than capital one and real corporate taxation in Spain is lower than in Ireland. Furthermore, the Spanish government rejects to introduce property or inheritance taxes.

The conclusions are evident. First of all, the solution to budgetary problems is not in outcomes but in incomes and then, the crisis is being used to transfer employment incomes to capital incomes.

We are facing a peculiar kind of vicious circle. Radical austerity policies are implemented to reduce the public deficit but those policies avoid reducing the public deficit so new austerity policies are adopted. How long and how far this “liar’s game” will go? Meanwhile the countdown of the social time bomb is going on.

jueves, 20 de septiembre de 2012


The blog restarts the activity after two months “out of duty” and we’ll try to put an end to a former question: what happen when the right to perceive regular unemployment benefits (“prestaciones”) ends? What are the choices for unemployed people with no incomes?

The answer is not easy; there are several different aids in cash under the umbrella of the so called “subsidio por desempleo”. Some of them are targeted to specific groups as rural workers from Andalusia or Extremadura, prisoners after their release, Spanish immigrants in no-European countries which decide to come back home… Now we’ll summarize the most usual cases. But first of all, some preliminary comments:

  • There are an increasing number of unemployed people which don’t perceive neither “prestaciones” nor “subsidios por desempleo”.
  • In August, the Spanish Government has strengthened the conditionality to access to “subsidios”.
  • The most of the times “subsidios” are linked to be the only income of the household. What does it mean? Let see! A young unemployed perceives a 426 € monthly amount “subsidio” so he decides to come back to his parents home. At this moment he’ll lost his “subsidio”.
  • The amount of the “subsidio” usually is the 80% of the Public Index of Multiple Incomes (IPREM).

Amount (2012)
Unemployed, under 45 years, finished their unemployment benefits (prestaciones por desempleo) and family responsabilities
18 – 24 months
426 €
Unemployed, over 45 years, finished their unemployment  benefits (prestaciones por desempleo) and family responsabilities
24 – 30 months
426 €
Unemployed, over 45 years, finished their unemployment benefits (prestaciones por desempleo) and no family responsabilities
6 months
426 €
Unemployed, without previous right to perceive unemployment benefits and no family responsabilities
3 – 6 months
426 €
Unemployed, over 45 years, finished their unemployed benefits (prestaciones por desempleo) and family responsabilities
21 months
426 €
Unemployed people over 55 years old
426 €

So to be a Spanish unemployed isn’t a good business. Furthermore, more and more Spanish unemployed are under the poverty threshold.

sábado, 4 de agosto de 2012

Where are the moral limits to taxation?

In a previous entry we talked about the increasing number of primary school students that bring their lunch from home because their parents can’t pay the school canteen bill. Some regional governments as Catalonia or Valencia (the most of education competences are in their hands) have announced that every student which brings his meal from home to have lunch at school will pay ad hoc taxes. This measure is focused to balance public deficit.

At the same time, the Spanish government allows money laundering to tax-evaders.

miércoles, 25 de julio de 2012


The formula for calculating unemployment benefits takes into account the contributions made to a specific contingency system in the last 6 months worked. In this way a regulatory basis is available. The amount actually received by unemployed people is a 60% of the regulatory basis in the six first months and 50% in the following ones (70% and 60% respectively before the last austerity measures adopted two weeks ago).

The minimum and maximum amount of unemployment benefits are as follows:

Minimum gross monthly  amount of benefits
Maximum gross monthly amount of benefits
Unemployed                                 497’00 €
Unemployed                             1.087’20 €
Unemployed with children           664’74 €
Unemployed + child                 1.242,52 €

Unemployed + children            1.397,83 €

The average amount (before taxes) of unemployment benefits per capita in May 2012 was 865’2 €

The benefits also include contributions to National Health Service to guarantee the access of unemployed people to medical care and contributions to the public pensions system.

What do these figures mean? Let see some references. The rent of a 50 m2 (2 rooms) flat in a working-class neighbourhood in Madrid (no lift, no central heating, no building expenses…) fluctuates between 650 € and 850 €. The 10-trip metro-bus ticket fare is 12 €. The monthly fee of a primary school canteen is around 110 €.

Next entry will be devoted to no-contributory benefits, in other words, unemployment incomes for those who have no right to perceive regular benefits.

lunes, 23 de julio de 2012


It isn’t a bad-taste joke. Thursday 19th July Mariano Rajoy (Chief of Government) explained in the Spanish Parliament a new austerity package. When he began to inform on unemployment benefit cuts, Andrea Fabra (MP People’s Party) shouted “Fuck them all!” (regarding to unemployed people)  Beyond her obscene language, Fabra’s words reveal a widespread feeling in right wing parties and European institutions: Spanish high unemployment ratios are partially due to an overprotecting system which discourages unemployed people to look for a job. Let’s see the guidelines of such a generous system:

·        According to the latest Economically Active Population Survey (EPA, in Spanish) data developed by the National Statistics Institute (INE,) there are 5.637.500 unemployed people (24’44%).
·        According to the Ministry of Employment 66’84% the coverage rate of unemployed receiving unemployment benefits in the first quartile of 2012 is 66’84%, (- 5’32% from same period last year even though unemployment is 3’15% higher).
·        How long can unemployed people receive unemployment (regular) benefits? Up to 2 years, depending of the days previously worked.

Days worked
Duration (days) of benefits
From 360 to 539
540 – 719
720 - 899
900 - 1079
1.080 - 1259
1.260 – 1.439
1.440 – 1.619
1.620 – 1.799
1.800 – 1979
1.980 – 2.159
Over 2.160

So the benefits will last 3 months if an unemployed have worked between a year and a year and a half; one year in case of 3 years-3 years and a half worked, or 2 years in case of more than 6 years worked.

Tomorrow we will take a sight of the unemployment benefit amounts.

Andrea Fabra; MP People's Party

domingo, 22 de julio de 2012


Thursday 19th July evening millions of people marched along the Spanish streets against the austerity measures adopted by the government last Friday and ratified by the parliament this morning. More than 500.000 protesters occupied Madrid city centre and 350.000 Barcelona.  Demonstrations took place in 80 cities all over the country. They were the largest demonstrations since 1981, when citizens took the streets defending democracy against the attempt to a coup d’état.

Let me remark some aspects of the protests beyond a massive people attendance. Demonstrations were organised by the two main Spanish trade unions (CCOO and UGT, 80% of the workers representatives are members of these unions) and supported by smaller trade unions like USO (close to right-wing parties) or CGT (anarchist). Several professional unions (i.e. CSIF, public employees’ union) also joined the marches. For the first time a demonstration organized by working-class trade unions was backed by judge, soldier and “guardia civil” associations (all of them are not allowed to join unions). Consumer organizations, the National Artists’ Federation, the Spanish Youth Council, the National Coordinating Committee of Ranchers and Farmers, the Coordinating Committee of NGO-Development, the Confederation of Parents of Students and lot of women organizations also supported the demonstrations.

Nevertheless one of the most stunning images was the large cortège of police associations marching side by side with “usual” demonstrators. Sardonically several protesters shouted “Today they don’t beat us! Today they are our friends!” By the way, other astonishing event of the day was connected with police! The wheels of 96 anti-riot vehicles were punctured in the parking of one of the biggest police headquarters in Madrid. Obviously the unknown responsible of this sabotage were policemen detached in the station in order to avoid a possible intervention against protesters.

These remarkable mobilizations shouldn’t hide thousands of more discreet ones which are taking place in the last weeks, the most of them out of the union’s control. Every day, at the end of the working day or at the coffee break, public employees go out of their working places and establish road blocks for 10-15 minutes provoking traffic jams all over the cities. Or every Friday, in the latest months, lot of public employees wears in black clothes in their working places as a sign of protest against the social cuts. They are the so called “Mourning Fridays”.

Let me just summarise, Spanish people is fed up with unfair and useless social cuts. The outcome of three years of austerity packages, social and labour cuts is more unemployment, more poverty, more inequality, no economic growth, increasing bond spread, deeper budgetary imbalances and a widespread feeling of frustration between working and middle classes. That’s recall the atmosphere of mitteleuropa in the late 20’s as Stephan Zweig described in his memories. There is only one thing that we lack: a populist party.

"FOR SALE - My future"

miércoles, 18 de julio de 2012


Lot of news has taken place in Spain in the past days but there is no doubt that the most important one is the new package of austerity measures (social cuts) adopted by the Government last Friday.

One week ago the Eurogroup decided to fuel up to € 100 billion to the Spanish banking sector. After that the Government declared that the loan was not linked to conditionality except for the banks needed of European money. Nevertheless two days later the Council of Ministers approved the most important pack of social cuts targeted on public employees and unemployed. I’ll try to summarise the most relevant measures:

Public employees:
·        Elimination of the extra month’s salary paid at Christmas (around 7’5% of annual salary). Last year the salary of public employees was frozen and the year before was reduced 5’5%.
·        Elimination of three days off and “seniority” days off.  These days aren’t a privilege of public employees as the Spanish Government usually says but an agreed compensation for the lack of increasing salaries in the last decades.  A public employee which has been working for 30 years will loose 9 days off.
·        40% salary reduction in case of sick leave.
·        Reduction of union’s representatives.
·        And it should be reminded that 150.000/ 600.000 public employees will be fired in the next months

Unemployed:  10% reduction of unemployment benefit from the sixth month of perception (only 62% of unemployed touch unemployment benefits).

Increasing TVA:  the Spanish TVA is below the EU average, it’s true. But it doesn’t seem a good idea to increase indirect taxes in the framework of decreasing economic activity. Furthermore, the TVA is counter-distributive and Spain is one of the most unequal member states in the UE.

The aid for young people to rent flats has been reduced 30%.
In the other hand, employers’ social contributions will be reduced in 2012 and 2013.

The streets are burning. Spontaneous demonstrations take place everywhere. Senior officials or policemen join the protesters for the first time. Next time we’ll talk on social protests in Spain.

Spontaneous protesters take the "Gran Vía" (one of the Madrid main streets) in the evening of Sunday 15th July 

lunes, 2 de julio de 2012


Monday, the 2nd of July. The most of European newspapers front-pages shows pictures of the last Euro 2012 final match in Ukraine. The victory of the Spanish team, “La Roja”, over the Italian one will have a soothing effect on a disheartened society in the next days. On the same date Eurostat reminded that Spain is also the Eurochampion of unemployment. And the day before, “El País”, the best seller Spanish paper, published the following photograph shot in Madrid city centre, in a lively commercial area. It shows people looking for food into a supermarket trash.

jueves, 28 de junio de 2012


When unemployment rates are next to 25% lots of employers take advantage of the widespread anxiety about getting a job. The lack of political will of the Spanish government to stop this practice –quite the opposite- and the union’s weakness in the most of SME make easier abusing of jobseekers or workers. Let‘s see some samples.

The Journalist’s Association (AJ) published a manifesto some weeks ago denouncing the precarious working conditions of Spanish journalist. The association point out a large number of cases. The TV production company responsible of the program “Late or soon” (25th TV, Barcelona) don’t pay for their programmes. In fact, the people interested in working for them have to pay 300 €. The firm argues that the programme is a very good stepping stone to be known all over the country. Fortunately, the most of media pay their workers.  So AJ underlines the case of a well known newspaper that pays 0’75€ for every short article. Not bad at all!

Carlos III University is one of the most prestigious university in Spain nevertheless has budgetary problems as many others in the country.  But the managers of the “UC3m” seem to have found a solution to the lack of money imposed by both central and regional governments. We mean the new contract of “Honorary Professor”. This new kind of Profs will have teaching, correct exams or advise students… for free. However the university fees to be paid for students have been increased.

Some weeks ago press agencies echoed the situation of a Brazilian immigrant in Coruña, the most important Galician city. He had been working as a waiter, 12 hours working time and no days-off in the last year only for tips. His boss owns several bars and restaurants in the city.

Recently “Pericial Selección & Headhunting” posted an “outplacement advisor” job vacancy at the specialised site web “Infojobs”.  Applicants should previously to take a three weeks training course given by the company. The most diligent attendant would win the job (no information about what kind of labour contract, salary, working time…). By the way! 950 € was the training course fee to be paid for every applicant.  That’s a new example of how employers abuse of desperate jobseekers.

Everybody living or working in Spain knows or suffers for these working conditions. One month ago the (very good up to now) state radio station “Radio Nacional de España” devoted a program to the plague of abusive job vacancies.  Nobody was astonished when a hotel asked for a Ph. D. in French, German or English philology to be hired as a receptionist and a 500 € monthly salary  As well as quite often part-time contracts hide more than 9 effective working hours.

That’s the reality of a country accused by the European Commission and the IMF of having a very rigid and expensive labour market.

  • "Let’s see! Neither intermediaries nor unions! Let’s agree you and me freely your working conditions!"
  • "Yes sir!"
(“El Roto” is one of the best known Spanish cartoonists)

miércoles, 13 de junio de 2012


Everybody knows the crazy meal times in Spain. In the future perhaps we’ll talk about this custom and we’ll be able to find out that it is not as traditional as most of people believe.

Spanish meal times have a direct relation with primary school timetables. Usually classes starts at 9 AM and by 1 PM there are a two hours (!!!)  break to have lunch.  After that kids start again their work till 4 or 5 PM.  Such a long lunch break is not only used to eat but also to follow the so-called “out-of-school activities” (even whether the activities take place at the school) as chess or foreign languages courses or simply they play different sports.  But we’ll focus our attention on having lunch at school.

Catering firms are usually in charge of feeding kids at school. Parents have to pay this service -used for most of the children- even in free state schools.  But things are changing due to the current economic crises because an increasing number of parents can’t afford pay the bill. Let’s see the three most habitual situations.

First of all I’ll tell you my own experience. Some weeks ago I attended a Parent’s Association meeting at the school where my son studies. I think interesting underline that it’s a middle-class lay school where most of parents (both members of the couple) used got a job (may be now one or both of them are unemployed). This kind of meetings often was devoted to inform about the academic guidelines or activities of the school but this time a new item was introduced in the agenda. We were warned that a significant number of people didn’t pay the catering bill. The school board had decided not to prevent any child to have lunch up to now but such a level of non-payments was unsustainable.

We can find two more expressions of the same problem. As a result of the increasing difficulty to pay school catering services lot of children bring their own lunch from home.  The problem is that there are not foreseen place to this sort of lunch: school canteens are reserved only to catering services and there are not even microwaves available to heating the homemade meals.

Finally, the most serious expression of the problem. Some parents are reluctant to show their economic difficulties so their kids come back home to lunch. The problem lies in a part of these children don’t come back to school and they miss the afternoon classes as well as they can’t take part of “out-of-school” activities.

So you can realize that the economic crisis and the adjustment policies have lot of unexpected faces.

PS. Once again I apologize for my English. All grammatical or syntactic corrections are welcome.