EU commissioner frets about youth unemployment in Spain

Labor Ministry considering offering social security discounts for self-employed under 30

The European Union’s commissioner for economic affairs, Olli Rehn, on Monday said he was very concerned about the increase in unemployment in Spain, and particularly the high number of young people without a job.

Spain’s unemployment rate jumped to just over 26 percent at the end of last year, the highest figure on record. The jobless rate for workers under 25 years was 55 percent.

Speaking to reporters before attending the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) summit being held in Madrid to celebrate its 40th anniversary, Rehn said he was aware of the need for measures to spur economic growth.

Also attending the ETUC meeting, Labor Minister Fátima Báñez said her department was preparing measures to address youth unemployment. One of those measures would be to cut the social security contributions of those under 30 years old registering as self-employed to 50 euros a month for six months. The lowest amount normally paid is about 250 euros a month. Thereafter, they will receive a discount of 30 percent for a further two years.

“We’ll lay out the red carpet for enterprising people,” Báñez said. “The strategy is well advanced and I think will take to the Cabinet soon,” she added.

In response to calls by the leader of the main Socialist Party, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, for a cross-party initiative on employment, Báñez said she welcomed any input into the task of creating jobs.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, who is also attending the ETUC meeting, said lowering social security contributions of the self-employed was fine provided that the initiative is linked to a “binding commitment” to create jobs for young people.

Schulz said it was absolutely necessary to combine budget discipline with a growth strategy, and argued the case for one-off investment in areas such as infrastructure to create work for young people.