6 Dec 2015

As Spanish polls near, disillusioned jobless struggle on

As Spanish polls near, disillusioned jobless struggle on

A woman walks past posters announcing a circus with the faces of the leader of Ciudadanos political party Albert Rivera (L) and Spanish Prime Minister and leader of Popular Party (PP) Mariano Rajoy (R). (AFP)

GEMA Martin recalls with a touch of nostalgia to the days when she had a vacation, medical insurance ... in other words, a job.

All that was cut short when the 43-year-old was fired under the former Spanish socialist government and impossible to find another job at the conservative decision - a drop in the ocean four million-strong unemployment which has become a key issue for the coming elections.

"I had a director's position in a company that makes checkbooks and I would work from 09:00 to 14:00 for 800 euros ($ 870) a month," said Martin in a popular neighborhood Madrid after helping to distribute free clothing to the local church.

"We were laid off gradually," is she recalls. Once unemployed, their unemployment benefits run out soon, as she and her husband - who is unemployed too - now partly depend on charity to survive.
They live with the mother of Martin, a former housekeeper at 73, without which they would probably be in the street.

"But she has a pension of 632 euros, and only rent is 552 euros," said Martin, making it difficult to make ends meet, even with the occasional odd jobs that her husband managed to find.

Devastating crisis

Spain has been hit hard by the global financial crisis, hit by five difficult years of on-off recession which has seen unemployment rocket from about eight percent in 2007 to a high of 27% in 2013.
After coming to power in 2011, Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy difficult cuts imposed taxes and spending rises, and also tried to encourage businesses to hire again by, for example, reduction of social security contributions for companies hiring of workers under 30 and over 45.
In October, official data showed that the unemployment rate in Spain dropped to a four-year low, with only 21.2% in the third quarter.

But as the army of unemployed in Spain is now a little smaller than in the rise to power of Rajoy, is still the highest in the eurozone after Greece.
In addition, critics say that many jobs created are insecure or poorly paid, with a quarter of all new contracts for a week or less.

Far from being resolved, the unemployed became one of the centrepoints elections on 20 December.
Rajoy has promised that the worst is over, pledging to create 2 million jobs over the next five years.
The new rise, center-right party Ciudadanos, meanwhile, promises to reform the labor laws and proposed the creation of a single employment contract to try to iron out differences between people in stable jobs and other precarious position.

The main opposition Socialists want to train and find jobs for 700,000 young people without qualifications or job to try to reduce youth unemployment, which currently stands at a whopping 47.7 percent.

For its part, the Podemos party austerity is committed to implement a minimum monthly income of 600 euros.

Not even for coffee money

Back in the Vallecas district, Lourdes Rodriguez, who at 41, is unemployed, said she did not feel any improvement since the arrival in power of Rajoy.

Her husband trucker, who was also unemployed, managed to find a job, but he earns only 800 euros per month, against the 1300 euros, he used to bring home.

And as a result of his work, the couple is no longer eligible for assistance from charities.
"I do not buy me anything. It has been years since I went to a bar to drink coffee," said Rodriguez.
Javier Baeza, the priest at the local church where Martin Rodriguez and help distribute clothes, says many here find ingenious ways to survive.

"Some come take clothes to sell them," he said.

According to official statistics, more than one household in five Spanish earns less than 16,700 euros a year - hardly enough to survive - while estimates of saving children who grow NGOs 1.3 million children 8 million poor families.

"I will vote for Rajoy, nor for the PSOE (Socialist Party) or to any of the major parties," said Rodriguez.

"They have always been there and they just crush the people, right or left - they are all the same. "