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|THE PLIGHT OF THE SO-CALLED EU periphery countries in the south and east has worsened as the economic downturn has become a slump. Spain, already near the bottom of the unemployment league table, has been hit both by the halt in construction and the cutbacks imposed by multinational companies. The bare figures are eloquent enough: in January another 125,000 people registered as unemployed, adding 3% to the total, pushing it above 4 million for the first time. In an echo of 80s Britain other measures put the total even higher, 4.3 million according to household surveys and 4.5 million or 19.4% according to unions. Because they often accepted temporary contracts in the good times young people have been the easiest to lay off and here the statistics are truly staggering, unemployment of 15-24 year-olds having jumped from 17.5% three years ago to the current figure of 42.9%.||
trade union confederation USO have proposed. Although Spain is spending €30 billion on unemployment benefit the union accuses the government of ‘generating more unease among workers instead
of embarking on urgent measures to contain rising unemployment’.
Newly redundant workers queue at a Job Centre in Madrid
Although construction and manufacturing were the first to be hit, the malaise has now spread so that 82% of the January redundancies were in the service sector. Nor is there much hope of improvement any time soon, five times as many redundancy notices or EREs (see issue 46) were posted in the first nine months of 2009 compared to 2008, mainly by private manufacturers.Meanwhile the government is under pressure to reduce the budget deficit of 11% back down to the limit of 3% that the EU prescribes in the euro-using countries. Such cuts are unlikely to stimulate the public sector as