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From Precariousness to Massive Unemployment: Young Workers in Spain. Carlos J. Fernández Rodríguez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) Paper for the EWERC.

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Presentation on theme: "From Precariousness to Massive Unemployment: Young Workers in Spain. Carlos J. Fernández Rodríguez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) Paper for the EWERC."— Presentation transcript:

1 From Precariousness to Massive Unemployment: Young Workers in Spain. Carlos J. Fernández Rodríguez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) Paper for the EWERC seminar series. Manchester Business School, Thursday 19th April 2012.

2 Aim of this paper: a reflection on a national case Theoretical framework is inspired on regulation theory and its debate on Fordism / Post-Fordism It provides a description of the Spanish situation regarding precarious labour and young people, focusing on the labour market figures and its impact on young people’s life projects. It discusses the way the road to precariousness has been outlined in Spain since the death of the dictatorship (1975) until the current economic crisis, highlighting the importance of labour market reforms. It pays attention to the perception of the young Spaniards about themselves focusing on their discourses.

3 Youth labour market: a difficult scenario Spanish labour market has suffered historically a very high unemployment rates. Currently that rate has reached an astonishing 22.85%. Labour market has also suffered of a strong segmentation since the eighties. Fixed-term contracts have represented for many years a 1/3 of the total existing contracts (today ¼). They are widely used in sectors such as construction and hotel industry, for many years pillars of the Spanish economy. Result: a “Culture of temporariness” in Spanish employers; high figures in job insecurity surveys.

4 Youth labour market: a difficult scenario (II) The Spanish labour market evolution:

5 Numbers have been generally much poorer when we talk about young people (almost 50% unemployed!!): Youth labour market: a difficult scenario (III)

6 While the numbers have dropped down with the crisis, there has traditionally been a very high number of young people hired with fixed-term contracts (more than 50% by 2006). With the current economic crisis, the rate among these young workers has decreased severely as they have become unemployed. Half of the people between 16 and 34 years old have required more than a whole year to find a job after graduating (no matter the educational level achieved). The spread of low quality jobs has helped to delay the personal projects and transitions to adulthood of a whole generation of Spaniards (independence, raising new families, etc.)

7 Staying with papá and mamá… until I’m 30 A larger number of thirty-something people are still dependent in terms of economy and residence on their parents: in 2005 20% of people over 30 were still living with them. While later reports claim that the numbers had improved by 2008, it is likely that the crisis may have dropped those numbers down again. Some scholars have also talked about “boomerang kids”. While in Southern Europe patterns of independence differ greatly from northern European countries, surveys show that the reasons behind delayed independence are mostly economic (house prices, precarious jobs).

8 Staying with papá and mamá… until I’m 30 (II) Some authors have criticized the lack of a coherent public policy regarding young people, linked to the historical underdevelopment of the Spanish Welfare State. Important social consequences: Spain has one of the lowest fertility rates of the world. It has been below a rate of 1.5 since 1987 with few signs of recovery in spite of immigrant mothers. The lack of confidence in the future, a more hedonist culture and complaints related to the impossibility to achieve a balance between working life and parenthood seem to influence the choices of Spanish young people about raising a family.

9 Labour deregulation and the road to precariousness (I) Point of departure: dismantlement of Franco’s paternalistic labour market. Transition to democracy: high inflation and growing unemployment. Measures since 1977 promoted new kinds of contracts addressed to young people. 1984, 1994: Important labour market reforms that introduced different types of fixed-term contracts. They ended up being a third of the existing contracts spreading precariousness among different groups (particularly young people).

10 Labour deregulation and the road to precariousness (II) 1997, 2006: labour market reforms were less agressive but did not succeed in lowering the rate of temporary contracts. 2010, 2011, 2012: last labour market reforms has diminished the dismissal costs but they have not helped to improve unemployment figures. In sum, these reforms have mainly reinforced fixed-term contracts, largely used by companies (to the point of being abusive) as well as other types such as apprenticeship, formative and “practices” contracts, all of them designed to fight against unemployment among young people. Therefore access to the labour market has been eased by worsening labour conditions.

11 Pessimistic discourses (I) The persistence of precariousness along all these years has affected not only the educational strategies of Spanish young people but also their expectations. The proliferation of mileurism (young graduates whose salary is around 1000 €/ month) brought discontent to young people as they witness how their diplomas are not valued by the labour market in the way they expected. Now they do not even reach those figures. Therefore discourses (taking from nine focus groups) show that there is a clear pessimism in the way they look at the future.

12 Pessimistic discourses (II) “almost everyone I know does not have a permanent contract, there is no stability so you can be fired at any time”. “They do not listen to you and the less they hear you the more they like you. The more you talk the worse they consider you. […]. They are not interested in what you say”. “Too many hours. Once there were two weeks in which I had to be at the job place from 6 am to 9 pm”. “I did not dare but another guy tried to start one trade union and soon things were messed up. He was suddenly fired without any reason but you know what the problem was about… They want to have everything under control and they do not want that kind of people…”

13 “you can’t throw a stick without hitting 500 graduates” “there are guys who have enrolled vocational training and have gained more experience so now they earn three times more than me even if they have never step in a University classroom” “I know lots of people who have graduated in different Faculties and all of them are unemployed” “We all have finally felt like if we have been cheated, you know? It seems like if I have been studying for nothing” Pessimistic discourses (III)

14 Pessimistic discourses (IV) Daily practices, management by walking around and professional experience are considered to be highly positive whereas degrees and theoretical knowledge are despised in a clearly anti-intellectual stance. Titulitis forces young people to get overqualified and this does not mean that they become better workers. Frustration is also fuelled by the growing knowledge about European social policies and a feeling that they are less skilled than Northern Europeans in terms of labour and even life projects. Precariousness seems to create an enormous frustration and resentment among young people, leading to individualization straegies rathen than to collective responses (until May 2011).

15 Conclusion Labour market reforms have pushed a managerial philosophy in which human resources are more likely to be considered costs rather than assets and thus introducing an enormous uncertainty among young people, the main group affected by these flexible policies. Precarious labour has become the only employability norm and the high unemployment figures show a difficult scenario for young people: the alternatives seem to be for many to remain unemployed or work in precarious conditions. Recently there has been a rise in activism with lots of protests (Movimiento 15-M) Prospects for the future seem to be rather gloomy for this generation of Spaniards.

16 THE END Thank you very much!

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