Tuesday, April 15, 2008

As Spain’s economic growth more than falters – some forecasts for this year are now below 1% - concern is growing that the recent massive influx of immigrants will be more of a challenge than when these folk were filling jobs that could now become quickly [but temporarily?] redundant. Here’s what William Chislitt has to say on this subject in Spain Going Places:- Roughly half the new jobs created between 2001 and 2006 (three quarters in the first three months of 2007) were filled by immigrants, mainly in construction, domestic service, retail trade, hotels, restaurants and agriculture, all of them labour-intensive sectors. Immigrants are much more mobile than Spaniards and are prepared to work almost anywhere in the country and in any sector: unlike their hosts, they cannot afford to be too choosy. Partly thanks to them, real wages have fallen over the past few years and the labour market is more flexible.

Chislitt points out that Spain’s employment protection is one of the highest in the OECD. But I suspect this applies to ‘permanent positions’ and not to the temporary contracts which are such a feature of the country’s employment scene. I doubt that many immigrants were given the former. Many [most?] young Spaniards aren’t either.

Spain’s youngest ever Minister is responsible for Equality. This brief includes addressing the problem of domestic violence, which the President assures us he means to stamp out. The young lady will have her work cut out. I’ve often asked whether things here are much different from elsewhere but our friend Chislett says Domestic violence has risen at an alarming rate (74 women were killed by their husband or partner in 2007). Incidentally, the five 30-40 year old female teachers I give a conversation class to on Monday evenings felt very strongly that this appointment was purely political, not meritocratic. And that it might well backfire on women if it is a failure. I suppose this could just be envy/jealousy.

I’ve been banging on recently about the increase in state snooping in the UK. But there is one bit of technology which appeals to me. The Spanish insurance company Mapfre is said to be considering a bit of kit which is fitted in your car and justifies lower insurance premiums if your driving is sensible. I’ll certainly be a candidate for one of these, just as soon as they figure out how to rig it. Which they surely will. And even if they don’t.

I’ve also been banging on about Carrefour. And I’m not about to stop. A lawyer friend told me she’d represented several clients who’d run into the sort of problem I had. She even claimed Carrefour knowingly sold [albeit cheaply] defective or poor quality products under famous brand names. I rather dismissed this but reader David has now written to say he bought a [genuine] Compaq which the company later refused to repair because it was of East European origin. Hard to believe Carrefour didn’t know the item had no effective warranty. So, dishonest or incompetent. Or both, of course.

Galicia Facts

The besieged construction industry is up in arms here because the Xunta – with a nice sense of timing – is introducing laws which will tighten up building provisions and so make flats more costly. The Xunta has tried to calm things by saying it will apply the law ‘flexibly’. Local governments in Spain playing fast and loose with planning laws? Surely not.

Which reminds me – Just along the coast from Pontevedra, a large swathe of land is being bulldozed prior to the start of yet another development. This is clearly within 500 – never mind 1000 - meters of the sea. So smells of illegality. Perhaps the town council is demonstrating flexibility. By the way, the place is called La Granja/A Granxa. As this means The Farm in Spanish/Gallego, I guess it’d be the perfect place for a brothel with a flat roof, from which to hurl donkeys, goats and the like.

Finally - It’s widely believed in the UK that the country was last invaded, by French Normans, in 1066. But this isn’t so; the Dutch successfully invaded in 1688, when William of Orange deposed James II and became William III. The Anglo view is that this resulted from an ‘invitation’ by several English nobles but, in Going Dutch, Lisa Jardine argues that, to say the least, this is debatable. I guess there are worse people to be invaded by than the Dutch. I wonder if they found it easy because they all spoke impeccable English even back then.


Graeme said...

The general concensus seems to be that once economic growth goes below 2% then the economy fails to create enough employment to cope with those entering the market. I saw an interesting article yesterday comparing the IMF estimates for growth in the Spanish economy in past years with those of the government. The government's estimates were generally closer to reality. The same article also asked a question that several others have asked recently, if the IMF is so full of wonderful experts how come they never manage to predict a crisis until it is already happening? That said, bets are already being laid on Solbes offcially reducing the growth estimates in the summer.

moscow said...

As an economist by training, I must own up the fact that economists are clueless about almost everything - in particular about the economy. The FMI is full of economists....hence....
Solbes, despite himself being an economist, is a rather sober - dour like Brown - type of character, which is why his forecasts are rarely fancyful
pie-in-the-sky sort of forecasts.

Anonymous said...

La fiesta terminó......(en la economía española)

Mark said...

The UK is no better. Headlines of 40000 people losing their jobs in the City, house prices plunging etc are all having their effect. Strangely, we're not currently in recession; technically the economy is still growing. However people will start acting with caution eg cancelling the second holiday, not going out so much, which will all start to dampen demand in the economy. Here it's all being blamed on Gordo; no doubt there is a suitable scapegoat in Spain?

Anonymous said...

Spain’s employment protection is, from my experience, when I last worked, its own worst enemy. In theory, protections for employees appear considerable. In practice, even when employers offer so-called "fixed" contracts, there are not a few who expect employees to sign an undated, "voluntary" resignation, before they are hired. These contracts then become less secure than a temp one for a set period.