Catalans make up 26% of Spain's furloughed workers

The State has spent €13bn euros on the furlough bill between April and November

The State has already spent almost €13.4bn on paying for the furlough scheme, known as ERTE, between April and November, according to data published this Wednesday by the Spanish Ministry of Inclusion and Social Security. Numbers have climbed again with the spread of the second wave of covid-19, especially in regions where new restrictions have been applied, as is the case of Catalonia.

Those on furlough - who are not counted as unemployed - have increased, and in mid-November, when bars and restaurants were still closed, there were 196.359 Catalans on furlough, according to data from the ministry. This is 72,061 workers more than last month, which are mainly blamed on restrictions in the hospitality industry and trade. At the end of November there were 746,900 people in the State on furlough.

Despite the rise in ERTEs, unemployment is tending to stabilise. Catalonia ended the month of November with 484,748 people registered on the unemployment lists, only 189 more than in October (+0.04%), but 94,566 more than in November last year, which means an increase of 24.24%, according to data published this Wednesday by the Spanish Ministry for Work.

"It is normal that there is not much growth in unemployment", explains Jordi García, professor of labour law at the University of Barcelona, who reasons that many workers are affected by furlough schemes and many young people do not bother to register with the employment service offices because they know they will not find work. "What is important is the increase in the number of employees on furlough," he says.

Moreover, this expert stresses that the increase in unemployment has also slowed down because the furlough scheme prevents dismissals. And he warns: "The moment the tap is closed [i.e. ERTEs, which in principle end on 31 January], unemployment will skyrocket.

García considers it problematic that the situation is not used to train workers and transform companies, as was done in Germany in the 90s. "We are concerned about whether or not the ERTE will be extended, but there is no long-term vision," he warns, referring to various reports from international bodies, such as yesterday's OECD's, which delay the economic recovery of Spain until 2022 or 2023.

In Spain, at the end of November, there were 3,851,312 unemployed, 0.66% more than in October and 20.42% more than in November last year. In total, 25,269 more unemployed than in October.

The number of those in work in November in Catalonia reached 3,378,995, 83,933 less than in November last year (-2.42%). In Spain, the number of those working reached 19,022,002, 354,877 less than a year ago (-1.83%).

Recruitment continued to fall in November. In Catalonia, 194,247 contracts were signed, 26,192 less than in October (-11.88%) and 68,248 less than a year ago (-26%). Of the new contracts, only 25,200 were permanent, while 169,047 were temporary. In the whole state, 1,449,810 contracts were registered, 101,547 less than in October (-6.55%) and 314,359 less than a year ago (-17.82%).

Women continue to suffer unemployment more. Of the total number of unemployed in Catalonia, 267,502 are women (55.18%), while men without work are 217,246 (44.82%).

In November unemployment fell in the provinces of Barcelona and Lleida compared to the previous month. In the province of Barcelona there were 846 fewer people on the unemployment lists (-0.24%), up to 350,830 unemployed; and in the province of Lleida, 201 people (-0.77), leaving 26,005 unemployed.

On the other hand, in the province of Girona there was an increase in unemployment of 942 people (+1.97%), up to 48,681 unemployed; and in Tarragona unemployment rose by 294 people (+0.50%), up to 59,232 unemployed.

Unemployment increases in services and construction

The service sector was the sector that led the rise in unemployment in Catalonia in November, with 1,431 more unemployed than the previous month, followed by construction, with 246 unemployed. Agriculture and industry registered decreases: 213 people in the first case and 78 in the second. Amongst those with no prior occupation, 1,197 people are no longer unemployed.

The ministry also reported that spending on unemployment benefits stood at €2,653m in October, half the amount spent in May (€5,481m), when the maximum was reached. The total number of people receiving unemployment benefits rose in October to 2,553,677 people throughout Spain, 35.9% more than in October 2019.

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