When Cristina Álvarez (55 years old) was called two years ago from her company —an insurance company— to fire her, she was stunned. “They gave me a new boss, I didn’t understand her through her eyes and they threw me out on the street. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me,” she says. Since then, she has not returned to work. Every three months she resubmits her resume to the human resources teams at the insurance companies, hoping one day the phone will ring. The local Facebook pages of Boadilla del Monte – the municipality where she lives, about 30 kilometers from Madrid – did not open doors for her either. “They haven’t called me once. I am looking for any position until I am 65 years old to achieve retirement. Secretary, administrative, telephone operator… I manage with anything. I just want to have a job,” she adds.
Álvarez is one of the 976,800 people, according to data from the Active Population Survey (EPA) for the first quarter of 2022 —the highest figure since 2019—, who have not worked in Spain for at least two years. According to a recent Adecco report, the long-term unemployed represent 27% of the total unemployed, three percentage points more than at the end of 2020. A proportion that is one of the highest in the European Union, only behind Greece. (40.6%), Italy (34.5%) and Bulgaria (28.4%). And that almost doubles those of Germany (15.7%), France (14.5%), and Holland (11.3%). Moreover, Spain concentrates 30% of the long-term unemployed in the EU.
This scenario contrasts with the record drop in general unemployment data that Spain has experienced in the last year. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Labor, the unemployed in March were 3,108,763 million, 21% less than in the same month of 2021. As Cristina Estévez, secretary of Institutional Policy and Territorial Policies of the UGT, details, these data reflect two different situations.
On the one hand, the good employment rates in recent months reflect a brilliant recovery after the pandemic hit and are directly related to the labor reform. “The new law curtails temporary employment and, by promoting indefinite contracts, produces a soothing effect on the unemployment lists,” says Estévez. Since the text was approved, on December 31, 2021, in the first quarter of this year more than one million fixed contracts have been made, and their percentage of the total has only increased: in January it was 15 %, in February 21.9% and in March it rose to 30.7%.
However, the labor reform has no impact on the burden of long-term unemployment, which, according to UGT and Adecco, must be attacked by strengthening active employment policies, that is, State interventions to help the unemployed to find work. The average profile of this group is that of a person who is over 40 years old and whose professional background does not derive from academic certification, but from experience itself. Therefore, the programs and courses established by the National Employment Service for these unemployed “have to be very specific to facilitate their return to the labor market,” Estevez warns. “Counselors need to understand the training needs of people who have been unemployed the longest and, depending on the job prospects they may have, provide them with a program that is appropriate to those circumstances,” he adds.
The stagnation of long-term unemployment is a phenomenon that has been fed back for years, regrets Javier Blasco, director of the Adecco Group Institute. “The reasons are the aging of the active population and the lack of specialized advice that allows the unemployed to reinvent themselves professionally, regardless of their training,” he agrees. For its part, the Ministry of Labor indicates that this group, along with young people, is at the center of the Active Employment Policies, which foresee specific investments of 621 million euros.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
Age, the biggest obstacle
Most of the unemployed who have not found a job for at least two years consider that age is the biggest barrier to being hired. Although Álvarez, at 55, is not giving up. “I know that I have it very raw, because women from the age of 40 disappear for companies, especially when you are a mother. But they don’t realize that at this stage is when we have the least problems, because we have our children already raised, and we are not going to give up due to pregnancy or school reunions. I still hope that at some point someone will hire me, ”she says optimistically.
The absence of the labor market for a while has become for many an opportunity to improve their training. The strong point of the CV of Javier Cabello Lozano, 43 years old and resident in Barcelona, are the professional experiences that he has accumulated in the last 20 years: dependent on El Corte Inglés, receptionist in a casino, staff in a museum, administrative. However, the half-empty column of the studies has always been his disadvantage. Aware that companies usually require an academic degree, at the age of almost 40 he began to study a Professional Training (FP) in Administrative Management in the Legal Field, obtained a C1 level certificate in English and, during the pandemic, took a Master’s degree in Corporate Communication. “If no offers come out, I continue training. Although I don’t have a college degree, I have several add-ons. Something is something,” he maintains.
In the more than two years that he has been unemployed, he has made Linkedin his portal of reference when looking for new opportunities. Although he considers that most of the advertisements offer low wages and poor conditions. “After putting up with night shifts for seven years, I’m not up for it anymore. For me it was the worst. You lose vital contact with the whole world. Now it is customary to make people work at all hours and during the weekend, but each one has their own life and it is increasingly difficult to reconcile everything, ”he notes.
Going back to work is possible
After an uphill road, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is not impossible. Noelia Caballero (39 years old) returned to work last month after being unemployed for two years and four months, receiving only a partial subsidy of 300 euros. “The pandemic was hell. Recently divorced, unemployed and with two little girls at home. We have been through a lot of hardships. When you have someone depending on you, you can not let yourself down, but I have felt defeated, ”she confesses. Her frustration at not finding a job kept her awake for more than a hundred nights: “She was willing to accept anything. Nothing came out. They haven’t even called me to take paid courses for the unemployed. In the few interviews that she did, when she said that she had two little daughters, they already discarded me”.
Although with a temporary contract of six months, her new position as an administrative assistant in a real estate developer has brought her smile back. Of course, his reintegration into the labor market was very hard. “The first week he came home crying every day, he didn’t know if he had lost his worth. Now I have adapted, especially thanks to the support of my colleagues who have welcomed me like one of their own and take great care of me. They have been the best,” she concludes.
Exclusive content for subscribers
read without limits