Unemployment in Spain

Spain’s Employment Minister announced the unemployment figures for September this morning. Usually these figures are released as soon as the month finishes, sometimes even beforehand if they are encouraging ones, and inevitably they are immediately politicised by all sides. The Socialist Party, when in opposition, often accused the Popular Party of manipulating figures by making changes in how they were calculated, and yesterday the trade uniones accused the Socialists of waiting until the Minister of Employment was back from a trip abroad to release the new figures, so that he could make political gains from what was expected to be good news.

As it turned out the figures are quite encouraging. Unemployment went up last month (as it generally does in September, because the tourist industry takes on extra employees in June, July and August to cope with high season demand, but contracts generally end when the Summer does), by 1.2% which means 20.023 people became unemployed.

This is the lowest figure for the month of September since 2001 and is much lower than the rise in unemployment registered last year (38,633).

The strange thing is that all the new unemployed people who registered in the unemployment offices during September were women. If this is surprising in itself, we were even more surprised that none of the major Spanish news sources seem to find anything strange about it at all! So we asked one of our Spanish collaborators who is an economist why.

Apparantly women in Spain often determine the rise of fall unemployment figures because in a traditional working-class Spanish family, it is the mother who is most likely to work in temporary employment as and when the chance arises, to help boost the family economy, whereas the father has the role of permanent earner. When a temporary (usually seasonal) contract finishes, women often register straight away at their local unemployment office, and continue with domestic jobs at home and maybe take on cleaning jobs in houses or offices (with no contract).

In September this trend generally rises, as workers who are mothers often choose to register at the unemployment office rather than look for alternative employment when their Summer contract ends, so that they can organize the start of the school term and the care of their children, whereas men who have been on temporary contracts look around for another job straight away.