Covid-19 hammers Spain’s job market as country surpasses 10,000 deaths

Madrid, Apr 2 (efe-epa).- The Spanish government on Thursday said the country’s labor market had suffered its worst month on record because of the coronavirus outbreak with the loss of over 800,000 jobs.

The job loss figures were published as Spain marked another grisly milestone in the human cost of the outbreak as it registered a record 950 deaths overnight, pushing the country above the 10,000 mark in terms of overall fatalities, although new infections were slowing.

Labor minister Yolanda Díaz said 834,000 jobs had been lost in March due to the national lockdown forcing all but essential workers to stay at home until at least 12 April.

“Spain has registered an increase in unemployment of 302,265 people. It is not a historical figure in the number of unemployed, but it is in terms of a monthly increase,” she told a press conference.

“We have 3.5 million people registered as unemployed.”

The services sector has been the most affected with an increase of 206,016 unemployed people as bars and restaurants were ordered to temporarily close down.

The second most affected sector was construction with a 22.92 percent increase in unemployment, followed by agriculture with 6,520 unemployed people (4.26 percent).

“The virus does not have a gender-specific impact, but structurally the labor market has a very strong gender bias. There are two million unemployed women,” Díaz said.

Spain has prohibited companies from firing employees during the health crisis and instead encouraged employers to offer temporary lay-offs called Erte.

Díaz said 620,000 of these applications had been processed so far, although some Spanish regions had yet to provide data.

The Erte are not counted among job losses, but rather new social security welfare claimants, as the government relaxed state benefit rules to widen the scope of those who could qualify for aid.

The minister of social security, José Luis Escrivá, said the monthly job loss figures were comparable to those observed in Spain in the first 100 days following the 2008 financial crisis. He said it was important to compare the data before Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared a national lockdown on 12 March and after, adding that in the first 11 days of the month — usually a good time of year for employment — some 64,843 jobs were added to the system.

Between 11-31 March however, the number of social security taxpayers “imploded” by 898.822. This tally comprised 855.081 employees and 40,877 self-employed.

A household survey published by the national statistics institute (INE) on Thursday said 4.79 million people in Spain were living alone during the coronavirus quarantine period.

Roughly 2 million of those identified were over 65.

Antonio García Alburquerque, 88, from Murcia, is one such person and he told Efe about how the coronavirus outbreak had got him worried not only about his own health but that of his sons, his grandchildren and his neighbors.

“My son brings me food so that I don’t have to go out,” said the man known universally in his building as El Abuelo (The Grandfather).

“I don’t move from my chair so we don’t get close. But that’s worse for me. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life. Not even in the post-war period. This bug is a global problem, and it worries me a lot.”

García has vowed to get back to his daily games of dominoes with his friends once the crisis has passed.

“I’m old, on 5 September I’ll turn 89. But my grandchildren and my children are young. My neighbors, too, and them getting close to me is a worry. Not just for me, but most of all for them, because you want to avoid the hospital at all costs.”

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