Spain is approaching more hard decisions about jobs. This Friday, the conservative government of Mariano Rajoy is scheduled to announce its reform plan for the labour market. Spain has five million people out of work. Jobs minister Fátima Báñez says the priority is to stop employment destruction, notably, to somehow prevent companies from laying people off.
This seems a tall order, looking at the trend in Spain since 2008. This year the country is set to have 5.2 million jobless, with a recession likely. The forecast is for average 23 percent unemployment.
Look at the case of Villacañas, in central Spain, not far south of Madrid. It went from full employment, producing most of the country’s doors, to 23 percent unemployment. Here is a company, Visel, that has had to tell its 800 employees not to come back – the same story for half the factories in town.
Former general manager Raimundo García said: “We grew till we were selling a million doors per year, pulled along by the property bubble.”
Since 2008, Spain has seen 2.7 million jobs swept away, 55 percent of them in the building trades. It had been easy to find work, but then many people who had left school early found themselves underskilled and undereducated.
In Villacañas, 93 percent of the work pool have only basic elementary school qualifications. Now that so many are out of a job, it is a problem. Adult night schools are thriving, as people scramble to catch up. The government has also announced it is reforming professional training. It plans to guarantee access to work-based learning for life.