JOB MARKET

Deputy PM wrongly claims 520,000 people guilty of jobless claim fraud

Labor Ministry clarifies that only only 60,000 people have had their benefits withdrawn in the past six months

The government on Friday made a great show of announcing its estimates on tax and unemployment fraud on Friday, speaking about more than half a million people who might be collecting checks while working on the side.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría stated that in a year and a half, as long as the Popular Party (PP) government has been in power, agencies have detected 520,000 cases of jobless claims where the recipients are actually working in the black economy.

But pressed by EL PAÍS to explain how it is possible for nearly 20 percent of check collectors to be defrauding the state, sources at the Labor Ministry later admitted that the vast majority of cases are really people whose checks have been suspended for one to six months because of bureaucratic issues such as not showing up for a meeting or failing to produce the required documents in time.

In other words, most of those cases have nothing to do with fraud. The ministry added that 60,000 people lost their right to collect unemployment in the last six months, but that only a small part of those had incurred in actual fraud, that is, working and getting jobless checks simultaneously.

Despite this, Sáenz de Santamaría insisted during a news conference on Friday: “I am talking about people who are collecting unemployment insurance and working in a fraudulent manner. An investigation has detected 520,000 people, over half a million people, who were fraudulently collecting their checks; we have saved taxpayers over three billion euros.”

She insisted on this piece of information up to three times, immediately triggering media headlines.

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