Spain’s prime minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said that the country is in its worst recession for years and that he cannot predict when the situation will improve. The Socialist premier also announced new measures to combat unemployment, with government cutbacks of one and a half billion euros. “The first and most urgent is the one linked to the Spanish workers,” Zapatero said. “We will maintain and extend the coverage of unemployment benefits, regardless of how high the unemployment rate goes,” he added.
Unemployment has proved a huge problem in Spain, soaring to 14.4 percent as the construction sector crumbled and economic crisis hit the country. Spain’s five million immigrants have particularly been affected. Ecuadorian Manuel Andrango is one of them. He came to Spain ten years ago to work on construction sites. He lost his job at the end of 2008. “I have looked for a job in and outside Madrid, but I have found nothing so I have decided to return to my country,” he said. It is the most severe downturn to hit Spain in 50 years, with unemployment expected to rise as high as 20 percent by 2010. Business lobbies say Zapatero has done little to wean Spain off the construction industry, which previously provided one fifth of economic growth.