Employment in Spain: still a long way off from the knowledge society

Ramón Alós Moner, Centre for Sociological Studies on Everyday Life and Work (QUIT) and Institute of Work Studies (IET), of the Autonomous University of Barcelona

The data show the Spanish economy’s serious difficulties in generating sufficient employment, as well as the reasons why it remains stuck in dominant patterns of negligible added value and low or medium-low usage of technology.
Key points
  • 1
       Most of Spain’s economic fabric is based on low added value employment and a lack of investment in innovation, with few professional requirements and of low quality in terms of occupation.
  • 2
       The poverty rate among people in employment in Spain has grown from 11.7% in 2013 to 14.1% in 2016.
  • 3
       In Spain employment is very much over-dimensioned in the catering sector, the weight of which is more than double that of Germany, France or Italy.
Evolution of employment in Spain by activity sectors (in thousands)
Evolution of employment in Spain by activity sectors (in thousands)
 

After four years of employment recovery since the end of 2013, it can be said that the Spanish economy is suffering serious difficulties in generating: 1) sufficient employment, 2) qualified professional employment, and 3) quality employment in terms of working conditions. The first point is shown by the unemployment figures: of 3.8 million people at the end of 2017, half were long-term unemployed (over one year) and over a third were very long-term (over two years). To these people who are unemployed we could further add those who have desisted from job-hunting because they consider they will find nothing, those who have emigrated, and those who are sub-employed with occasional jobs and reduced working hours.

A comparison with Europe

If the sectorial distribution of employment in Spain is compared with its peer countries (Germany, France or Italy and the whole of the Eurozone), some significant differences stand out (table 1). Firstly, it is confirmed that in Spain, employment is very much over-dimensioned in the catering sector, the weight of which is more than double that of Germany, France or Italy (with the last two being countries precisely characterised by tourism). The fact that occupation in this activity has increased in Spain by 26% over the last four years forces questions to be asked regarding a possible excess of specialisation: this is an activity that, furthermore, is defined by its high degree of seasonality. In contrast, Spain is a long way from reaching the levels of Germany and the Eurozone in industry; the levels of France and Italy in public administration; and the levels of Germany, France and Italy in healthcare activities and social services. In short, this is a reflection of the lack of development of welfare policies in Spain.

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Ramón Alós Moner, Centre for Sociological Studies on Everyday Life and Work (QUIT) and Institute of Work Studies (IET), of the Autonomous University of Barcelona

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