The Spanish government on Monday said it was drawing up measures to attack the problem of massive unemployment, particularly as it affects young people.
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 at a news conference in Madrid, Luis de Guindos described unemployment as the “biggest drag” on the country. “All of the government’s economic policy design is aimed at reducing it,” the minister said.
Separately, 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 it will go 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.
Speaking to reporters before attending the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) summit being held in Madrid to celebrate its 40th anniversary, the European Union commissioner for economic affairs, Olli Rehn, said he was very concerned about the increase in unemployment in Spain, and particularly the high number of young people without a job.
Also attending the ETUC meeting, Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, 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.