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The Faces Of The Pandemic In The Labor Market

After more than a year of pandemic, millions of Spaniards arrive on May Day with reduced working conditions. Some have lost their jobs, others have suffered a cut in their salary or hours, and those who already suffered from unemployment in the past have seen their options to find a job disappear.

The data up to March of the Social Security figure in 438,617 the jobs lost in just 12 months, and in 401,328 the new unemployed in Spain. The trend of the last three months has not helped: the Labor Force Survey (EPA) indicates that 137,500 jobs have been lost between January and March .

Even more so are those who, despite keeping their jobs, make it to the end of the month with assisted respiration from aid, especially in the hotel industry, commerce and tourism. The ERTEs assist just over 740,000 people and 450,000 freelancers receive contributions to keep their business afloat.

The following profiles collect the experience of four workers who have seen their employment situation changed, from among an ocean of stories left in the wake of the pandemic.

“Those of my age have it raw”
After spending 20 years as an employee of the insurer Fénix Directo, Verónica González (51 years old) was left without a job last January. Of the 110 people who made up the staff, 18 left as a result of an ERE. “They got rid of all the middle managers, and the worst thing is that I know from other colleagues who are now pulling ETT [temporary work agency] to fill those gaps,” he explains on the other end of the phone.

He could not start collecting unemployment until March, as he had problems with administrative procedures. “I am looking for work through LinkedIn, but it seems that my training level is too high to get a job right now. As is the job market, people my age have it especially crude. The outlook is very tough ”, he assures.

Separated for 10 years, she lives with her two children in Pelayos de la Presa (Madrid). “I have a mortgage of 800 euros and right now in no job you earn more than 1,000 or 1,200 euros. I hope to find something soon because I am quite optimistic, but the truth is quite crude, ”he confesses with resignation.

“I will return to the island, but I don’t know if there will be work”
The Balearic Islands have been the region hardest hit by the pandemic, and that is where Abraham Márquez, 28, migrated every year from Granada to cover the tourist season, and thus save to live in winter on the Peninsula. But for two summers he has not been able to return to the hotel where he worked as a waiter, in Cala D’or de Mallorca, the archipelago’s tourist epicenter.

Although his boss does not call him this year, he assures that he will also travel to the Balearic Islands to find a job, whatever: “In summer I will return to the island, but I don’t know if there will be work.” He and his companions depend on the arrival of the English and Germans, who have practically disappeared since the pandemic broke out. “I hope that the hotel opens at least in July and August, they have told me that there are some reservations, but nothing official,” he says on the phone.

If you do not find anything, you will have “a big problem”. His girlfriend (with exhausted unemployment) and he survive with the 800 euros from ERTE, but he knows that it will not last forever. In addition, they have a mortgage that eats up half of what they earn: “We had to buy an apartment in Mallorca to live while we worked, the rents there are very expensive and many times you can’t even find it.”

Abraham draws a bleak picture among the kids in his villa. “The people from Granada manage as best they can, looking for little jobs, a cast …”. But worse still are his friends from Mallorca, all dependent on tourism. “Things are very, very bad there. They are all looking for work, ”he laments.

“The labor market in Spain should be more flexible”
Although his profession is that of a physical education teacher, Unai Ugarte, who recently just turned 38 years old, had been working for the last three years in an anodized aluminum company in Bilbao. “I came to her through a contact and at first only for the three months of the summer in which I entered. I liked it, and in the end I stayed much longer than I expected ”, he acknowledges by phone.

Their company closed a year ago after the two partners retired. Since then he has taken multiple training courses, but has not managed to join any job bank. “I do not give the profile in almost none. I have had several interviews, but when it comes down to it they choose people who are in a more precarious situation than mine. I feel a bit helpless, ”he says.

He lives in an official protection flat with his partner, who is employed. “When it comes to getting a job, what works in Spain is word of mouth. I would like the labor market to be a little more flexible when it comes to finding work, and for the training offered to those of us who are actively looking for it as well ”, he points out.

“The only thing that is clear to me is that I have to pay the mortgage”
The tourism sector has been the epicenter of the economic disaster caused by the covid. Raúl Ibáñez, a Bilbao bus driver, knows this well, who has been in ERTE since a day after the first state of alarm was declared, on March 15, 2020.

He works only 15 days a month. “The little work we have now is what the schools offer us,” he describes on the other end of the phone. “Nothing comes out. Mobility restrictions affect us directly ”, he adds.

His partner also worked in the service sector. He was a tourist guide, but he lost his job and has now found one in another field. “We have gone through difficult times, like everyone else. We had bought a flat two months before the pandemic ”, he details. They do not have kids. “Doesn’t seem like a good time to have them, does it?” He jokes.

Make sure you don’t have a plan b if your company’s ERTE becomes an ERE. “What I have very clear is that I have to pay the mortgage. If I don’t work in one sector, it will be in another. I’m not going to stay until this starts. I am 39 years old and I have a long life ahead of me to work. Other 55 and 60-year-old colleagues have a more complicated outlook than mine ”, he concludes.

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