Twenty-seven percent of the Spanish population are living in poverty thanks to a toxic combination of regressive welfare and labour reforms, rising unemployment, cuts to living standards and public services, and privatisation.
The country has a growing army of working poor, according to a new study by Fundación Primero de Mayo, the think tank of trade union central Workers’ Commissions.
The problem is not new in a country that has long boasted of its ‘flexible labour force’. But it has been aggravated substantially since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008 as workers have faced wage cuts and longer working hours and public services have been privatised, commercialised and cut. The recent labour reforms imposed by the government of Mariano Rajoy, making it cheaper to hire and fire, will expand Spain’s precariat further.
Growing economic poverty has been accompanied by rising infant malnutrition rates, unhealthy living conditions, poor health care, a decline in the quality of support for the elderly and infirm, and a poorer cultural life, the report finds.
A collapse in economic growth is a key driver in rising poverty, with 475,000 households now with all family members of working age out of a job. Cuts to pensions, unemployed benefit and the rising cost of basic goods are adding to the woes.
Women, the study finds, are bearing the brunt of the crisis and the austerity measures taken in response to it because they are forced to give up employment opportunities in order to take more responsibility for dependents as state support for children, elderly and vulnerable is reigned back, the report concludes.