A homeless man on a bench in Madrid. Photo: AFP
The richest one percent of the Spanish population accounts for a quarter of the national wealth, according to Oxfam Intermon.
Spain has survived the economic crisis that crippled the country for almost a decade and is widely considered to be well on the road to recovery thanks to an economy that has expanded by an average of 3.3 percent between 2015 and 2017.
But who is reaping the benefits?
The Local presents some stark facts about the darker side of Spain’s economic recovery:
Inequality grows as the rich get richer
The gap between Spain's rich and poor is widening. Photo: AFP
A new report revealed that In Spain, economic growth has favoured the rich, with Oxfam Intercom ranking it as the third country in the European Union where inequality has grown the most since the crisis began.
Last year saw the creation of 7,000 new millionaires in Spain. The combined fortunes of Spain's top three richest people are equivalent to the wealth of the poorest 30 percent of the country, that is, of 14.2 million people.
Spain’s Gini coefficient, the most widely used measure for income inequality ranks among the highest in Europe with Gini indices at 0.34. The maximum value of the coefficient is one, in which a single individual owns all the income in a country, and the minimum is zero, in which everyone has the same income.
While the poor stay poor
10.2 million people in Spain live below the poverty line, equivalent to a poverty rate of 22.3 percent. This makes Spain the third country in the European Union with the highest levels of inequality.
In 2016, an average of 16,347 persons were hosted in care centers for homeless people, a 20.5 percent increase since 2014.
Women are are as penalised as ever in the work place.
Seven out of ten people who receive the lowest wages are women, according to the report entitled “Reward Work, Not Wealth,”
Women earn up to 14 percent less than men, and represent only 34.5 percent of those listed as the highest earners in Spain.
“While women mostly occupy the most precarious jobs, practically all of the super rich are men,” according to the report.
Unemployment rate in Spain is now 16 percent. Photo: AFP
At it's peak in 2013, unemployment among the under-25s in Spain was tipping 55 percent, a rate that dropped to 37 percent by the end of last year.
But the average annual salary of young people who enter the labour market have is 33 percent lower than in 2008.
Additionally, part-time contracts for them have grown three times faster than for the rest. Now, around 54 percent of those employed are on temporary contracts.
Wages haven't increased
Despite an improvement in the economy, the remuneration of workers has not recovered since 2009. While hourly productivity has increased by 6 percent since 2012, wage cost of each has only increased by 0.6 percent.
Hope for a better future?
A recent survey revealed that 68 percent of people in Spain think that it is difficult or impossible for the average citizen to increase their savings, no matter how hard they work.
Two out of every ten euros of public spending went to the wealthiest ten percent of the population.
Investment in education has fallen by 30 percent since 2010, with families being forced to make up the difference by spending 37.2 percent more on education costs.
Sitges Mayor among others arrested in police investigation of alleged corruption
Aurora Carbonell, the mayor of Sitges and from the ERC party, has been arrested in connection with an alleged corruption investigation, that has also implicated 12 other people, including eight local councillors from the period 2017-2022.
At least four people have been arrested as part of the case, including the local ERC councillor Jaume Monasterio, who was responsible for public works in the last legislature.
The group are being investigated for the crimes of misuse of public funds, embezzlement, and falsification of documents in the awarding of grants and minor contracts in the previous two mandates.
The Spanish National Police and officers of their Economic and Fiscal Crime Unit (UDEF) carried out several searches on Wednesday morning in Sitges, including municipal offices and the homes of two people. The investigation is focused into the process of subsidies granted by the Sitges Town Council to the social entity ‘Taula del Tercer Sector’ (Third Sector Board) and another local co-operative. The police seized documents relating to the entities under investigation.
According to local sources, the police would be investigating, among other elements, if the entity was paid twice for the same service, or received a subsidy and a minor contract, for example.
According to El Pais, police sources have said that the investigation affects the local departments of Beaches and Social Welfare. The police are analysing various specific grants, some of €45,000, €100,000 and €120,000, among others, which may have allegedly gone to the entities under suspicion. According to reports, the total sum under investigation is €600,000.
The starting point of the case stems from a police report detailing the alleged irregularities in May 2022, discovered by the council’s own inspectors.
Carbonell, who was recently re-elected as mayor, has been mayor of Sitges since 2019. The court has ordered for Carbonell and eight councillors to be investigated, in addition to four others who were part of one of the entities and cooperatves also under investigation. The period of alleged corruption is over four years, and also affects the government team prior to Carbonell, according to reports, under the leadership of Miquel Forns (CiU).
The Sitges Town Council has since issued a statement to say that the investigation is connected to ‘external irregularities’ and that it denies any type of wrongdoing.
‘The facts under investigation had already been analysed internally,’ the statement read. ‘The Town Council, once possible external irregularities were detected, commissioned legal professionals to clarify the facts, stopping the subsidies, reviewing the files and starting the process for the return of the subsidies that were not fully justified. The Council has reports that ensure the absence of administrative and even less criminal responsibilities, and which demonstrate the diligence of the Sitges Town Council.’
The statement went on to say that the council ‘is a transparent institution, which has a rigorous code of ethics that ensures the highest standards of integrity’.
It said that it would be making itself ‘available to the authorities in order to show our full collaboration in whatever is necessary’ and ‘reiterates our willingness to cooperate with justice at all times’.
Spain’s far-right Vox seek to make gains in 28 May local and regional elections
Spain’s third largest political group in the national parliament, the far-right Vox party, is looking to make gains in the local and regional elections due to be held across the country on 28 May.
Since it entered a regional government for the first time in Castilla y León last year, Vox has attacked the unions and pushed polarising positions on social issues, including abortion and transgender rights.
It is now poised to spread its influence beyond the sparsely populated region near Madrid, with the party hoping to make gains in the elections at the end of May.
Surveys suggest the main opposition, the right-wing People’s Party (PP), could need the support of Vox to govern in half of the 12 regions casting ballots, just as it did in Castilla y León last year.
Polls also indicate the PP is on track to win a year-end general election but would need Vox to form a working majority and oust socialist (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his coalition government from office.
Vox leader Santiago Abascal [pictured at a recent rally in Chinchón, near Madrid] has called the PP-VOX coalition government in office in Castilla y León since March 2022 a ‘showroom’ and ‘an example of the alternative Spain needs’.
It is Spain’s first government to include a far-right party since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
In Castilla y León, Vox has slashed funding to unions, which the party has vowed to ‘put in their place’ if it comes to power nationally. Trade union UGT was forced to lay off 40% of its staff in Castilla y León last month and scale back programmes to promote workspace safety. Spain’s other main union, the CCOO, is reportedly preparing to follow suit.
Vox has also angered LGBTQ groups by refusing to allow the regional parliament to be lit up in the colours of the rainbow, the symbol of the gay rights movement, for Pride festivities as in past years when the PP governed alone.
In addition, the regional vice-president, Vox’s Juan García-Gallardo, has railed against a law passed by Spain’s leftist central government that extends transgender rights.
The 32-year-old lawyer warned earlier this month that women would now be ‘forced to share locker rooms with hairy men at municipal swimming pools’.
Vox’s most contested initiative was a proposal that doctors offer women seeking an abortion a 4D ultrasound scan to try to discourage them from going ahead with the procedure.
The idea was swiftly condemned by Spain’s leftist central government, and Castilla y León’s PP president Alfonso Fernández Mañueco stopped the measure from going ahead.
The issue highlighted the hazards for the PP of joining forces with Vox, which was launched in 2013 and is now the third-largest party in the national parliament.
Spain – Gas falls below 90 euros per MWh for the first time in almost two months
The price of TTF natural gas for delivery next month has fallen below 90 euros on Friday for the first time in almost two months and closes a week marked by the decision of the European Commission to cap gas with a drop of 29, 36%.
According to data from the Bloomberg platform, gas closed this Friday at 83 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), 8.9% less than the day before and the first time it has lost 90 euros since last October 31.
After months of negotiations, the EU agreed on Monday to set a cap of 180 euros on contracts linked to the Amsterdam TTF index with a price difference of at least 35 euros above the average price of liquefied natural gas in the markets.
EU countries agree on a cap of 180 euros for gas with the support of Germany
In a report this week, the Swiss investment bank Julius Baer indicated that the chances of the mechanism being activated are low and pointed out that the chosen formula was not very effective in avoiding the multiplier effect that gas has on the price of electricity. However, he reiterated what was said in other previous reports: “Energy supply risks are minimal and prices should continue to decline in the future” due to the availability of raw materials from Asia to offset cuts from Russia.
Gas tends to fall during the hot months due to lower demand, but this summer it has reached historic heights as European countries were buying to face the winter with their tanks full and reduce their dependence on Russia. The price fell in September and October due to lower demand once the warehouses were full due to the high temperatures at the beginning of autumn, but in November it picked up again and 66% more expensive.
This article was originally published on Público
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