The undeniable truth is that employment in Spain is on an upward trajectory, albeit with a pace that raises concerns.
The recovery, though commendable, remains lackluster and insufficient. The resurgence in employment owes its gratitude to the resilient efforts of companies and a commendable revival in the tourism sector. It's intriguing to note that these very sectors have faced a relentless barrage of criticism from government members who now proudly tout the improving employment figures as their own achievement.
From a standpoint where employment recuperates despite a government that has consistently castigated businesses and tourism, it becomes a testament to the resilience of Spain's business fabric. However, bridging the gap between this resurgence and claims of employment records is a monumental stretch—an abyss, even.
Digging into the data reveals that while Spain has around 21 million affiliates, the total hours worked by these affiliates are substantially lower than the recorded 19.2 million. This sheds light on a crucial aspect often overlooked: the significance of analyzing not just the number of affiliations but also the hours put in. Labor unions have emphasized this aspect repeatedly, asserting that hours worked hold more weight in gauging employment health than mere affiliations.
The figures tell a tale of their own. When we consider the total hours worked in seasonally and calendar-adjusted terms, the second quarter of 2008 accounted for 9,137,186.6 thousand hours. The peak in 2019, however, stood at 8,554,873.9 thousand hours. The data for the second quarter of 2023 reported 8,545,149.1 thousand hours. This discrepancy between rising affiliates and decreasing hours worked is not due to vacations or illnesses—it raises questions about claims of an employment record.
Ironically, the same government propagandists who questioned the credibility of the National Institute of Statistics (INE) when it miscalculated CPI and GDP, are now extolling the virtues of INE's rigor and accuracy in presenting employment data. This pivot from skepticism to advocacy raises eyebrows, especially considering the government's previous unfounded attacks on the INE's credibility.
Diving into the intricacies of employment, the analysis delves into contract dynamics. It reveals that the average duration of temporary contracts has decreased, contracting to levels prior to labor reforms. Contracts spanning less than a week now constitute 19% of total contracts, and only 13.6% of contracts signed are full-time permanent ones. These dynamics paint a nuanced picture of employment realities in Spain.
Unemployment remains a persistent challenge. The total number of individuals registered with the state's public employment service (SEPE) as unemployed or without an occupation amounts to a staggering 3,851,116 in July 2023. Comparing 2023 data with 2019, effective registered unemployment has only decreased by 333,559 individuals over these four years—an average reduction of slightly over 80,000 annually.
Spain's unemployment figures paint a grim picture compared to its European counterparts. It maintains a considerable differential of 6.7 points with respect to the European Union's average unemployment rate, a differential that was lower in 2019. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) echoes these sentiments, classifying Spain as the leader in unemployment among all its member countries.
Scrutinizing Spain's employment landscape reveals a nuanced picture that belies the rhetoric of success. While there's a notable rise in affiliations, the decrease in hours worked poses critical questions about the touted employment record. The government's shifting stance on data credibility and the intricate dynamics of employment contracts highlight the complexities of the situation.
Spain's unemployment differential within the European Union, coupled with the decline in real income for Spanish families since 2019, underscore the challenges at hand. The path to improved employment requires holistic policies, including measures to bolster businesses and incentivize hiring. Raising labor taxes and focusing on public employment without addressing the underlying issues jeopardizes not just job sustainability but also Spain's international competitiveness.
Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach. Embracing measures that empower businesses, improve job quality, and attract investments will be pivotal in steering Spain toward robust and sustainable employment growth. In the end, the road to a thriving employment landscape demands more than rhetoric—it necessitates a commitment to strategic reform and policy innovation.
Daniel Lacalle is one the most influential economists in the world. He is Chief Economist at Tressis SV, Fund Manager at Adriza International Opportunities, Member of the advisory board of the Rafael del Pino foundation, Commissioner of the Community of Madrid in London, President of Instituto Mises Hispano and Professor at IE Business School, London School of Economics, IEB and UNED. Mr. Lacalle has presented and given keynote speeches at the most prestigious forums globally including the Federal Reserve in Houston, the Heritage Foundation in Washington, London School of Economics, Funds Society Forum in Miami, World Economic Forum, Forecast Summit in Peru, Mining Show in Dubai, Our Crowd in Jerusalem, Nordea Investor Summit in Oslo, and many others. Mr Lacalle has more than 24 years of experience in the energy and finance sectors, including experience in North Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. He is currently a fund manager overseeing equities, bonds and commodities. He was voted Top 3 Generalist and Number 1 Pan-European Buyside Individual in Oil & Gas in Thomson Reuters’ Extel Survey in 2011, the leading survey among companies and financial institutions. He is also author of the best-selling books: “Life In The Financial Markets” (Wiley, 2014), translated to Portuguese and Spanish ; “The Energy World Is Flat” (Wiley, 2014, with Diego Parrilla), translated to Portuguese and Chinese ; “Escape from the Central Bank Trap” (2017, BEP), translated to Spanish. Mr Lacalle also contributes at CNBC, World Economic Forum, Epoch Times, Mises Institute, Hedgeye, Zero Hedge, Focus Economics, Seeking Alpha, El Español, The Commentator, and The Wall Street Journal. He holds a PhD in Economics, CIIA financial analyst title, with a post graduate degree in IESE and a master’s degree in economic investigation (UCV).