Misrepresenting the reality of the labour market
Unemployment rises slightly in Catalonia in July, despite the fact that the employment record has been maintained. But can we trust the reliability of the official data? Are there inactive workers who should be counted as unemployed?
Catalonia has registered an upturn in unemployment after five consecutive months of a downward trend. According to data published by the Ministry of Labour, during July, the Catalan labour market added 1,612 more unemployed people (+0.49%) than in June. Despite this slight increase in unemployment, it remains the lowest unemployment figure since the 2008 crisis.
Currently, there are a total of 331,356 unemployed people, but in the last year, the total number of unemployed has been reduced by 10,035 people, 2.94% less. Compared to 2022, there are 103,185 more contracts, which is equivalent to a 2.8% increase. In total, there are 3.75 million workers in Catalonia and an unemployment rate of 8.44%.
The unemployment figures for Spain as a whole also reflect the best figures for 15 years. The Spanish economy continues to create jobs and reduce unemployment for the fifth consecutive month, although the pace slowed in July to below the historical average. The active population increases to 23.8 million people and the number of employed exceeds 21 million, another record high.
Unemployment stood at 11.6%, a fall of 11.7 points, after 365,300 people found work in the second quarter of the year, adding 595,614 people to Social Security since January. On the other hand, the number of unemployed registered at the offices of the public employment services fell by 10,968 people in July, -0.41% compared with the previous month, to a total of 2.68 million.
Inactive workers who are not registered as unemployed
In March 2022, the latest labour reform came into force, one of the main objectives of which was to change the production model, moving from temporary to permanent contracts in order to reduce temporary employment and precariousness. Therefore, work and service contracts disappeared, while the possibility of temporary contracts was restricted to very specific situations that cannot exceed 90 days worked per year.
In exchange, it was proposed that companies should use fixed-term contracts so that people doing seasonal work would not have to worry about whether their contract would be renewed after a period of inactivity and would have the same rights as workers with a permanent contract.
Despite the benefits for employees that this type of contract brings, it has the counterpart that workers who were previously considered unemployed are no longer counted as unemployed. In other words, when an employee with a fixed-term contract enters a period of inactivity, he or she receives unemployment benefits, but is not counted as unemployed, but is considered a “jobseeker with an employment relationship”.
This is a significant number of people who, in Catalonia alone, last year accounted for 5.7% of all workers affiliated with Social Security in Catalonia under this type of contract. If we take figures for the whole of Spain in December 2022 and January of this year, they were equivalent to 443,078 and 660,000 unaccounted jobseekers.
Obviously, the official data do not include the people who are looking for work but who are not registered with the SOC or the SEPE, either because they are self-employed, because they do not make any profit, or because they are part of the underground economy. Nor is it specified how many people work part-time, not because they want to, but because they cannot find another full-time job.
And it is true that these figures are difficult to account for, but more transparency in the data related to discontinuous permanent workers does not require any effort, but the simple will to reduce the divergence between the reality of the labour market and the official rhetoric, an unavoidable necessity if we really want to evaluate the effectiveness of employment policies.
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