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Spain

Class, wealth and austerity crisis

‘The odds of being a NEET, on low pay, or a school failure are clearly related to social origin. Living longer after retirement, the probability of being unemployed or the loss of purchasing power varies significantly by social class. Women who only have access to low-skilled jobs do not have the same family or work problems as those to get the best jobs, but all of them have a disadvantage when competing in the labour market with men.’

So says José Saturnino Martínez García, Professor of Sociology at the University of La Laguna.

In a new book examining the data on inequality in Spain, going back decades, Martínez García points out that a deep class as well as gender divide pre-dates the crisis and subsequent austerity fest of the socialist and now right-wing Popular Party government of Mariano Rajoy.

In Spain, as in most of the neighbouring countries, inequality lessened in the seventies and eighties, in parallel with the development of the welfare state and technological changes affecting the labour market. However, he adds, it stalled from the nineties, despite remarkable economic growth, until, with the crisis, it returned to the levels of 1980, so that, in 2011, the income of the richest 20% was 6.8 times that of the poorest 20%.

Wealth per capita has gone back a decade, but inequality has slid back some thirty years. The percentage of the population under the poverty line has increased and the number of people seeking help from Caritas has tripled.

And in bad times, it is the most disadvantaged in society who suffer the impact of the crisis most. Both in absolute and relative terms, the self-employed and unskilled workers are the hardest hit, while the smallest impact has been seen among entrepreneurs, managers and professionals.

An example: today, unemployment among skilled workers in Spain is 35.2%, but only 2.7% of managers and entrepreneurs are jobless. The percentage of NEETs – not in education, employment, or training – who have not completed secondary education is 11% if the father, mother or both have completed higher education, but for the rest, its 46%.

El Publico

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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