Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Unemployed In Spain Waiting For A Miracle

Middle-Class Poverty in Europe


Waiting in Line: With four of ten individuals in Spain unemployed, the highest rate in Europe, many have to resort to waiting in food lines.
Photo Credit: Getty Images, 2012
Photo Source: ExPat Newsletter

The economic crisis, and that's the right word, has hit Spain especially hard. People who never expected to be without a job, including engineers and other professionals, are now in the undignified position of having to wait in line to receive a free meal, their daily bread if you will, The Voice of America writes:
In central Madrid on a Saturday afternoon, the economic crisis seems like something only economists worry about. But in the working class suburb of Mostoles, the crisis hits home.Here at the San Simon de Rojas food-distribution center, unemployed construction worker Antonio Molino Pelaez is just one of many getting acquainted to life on the streets. "When I had a job, I had a good life. I didn't have lot of money but enough to eat. Now I can't survive. I have nothing," he says. "It affects me a lot, because I'm a man of 41 and I don't have any prospects. I don't have a future. I don't have anything."
Pelaez, who eats here six days a week — on Sundays when the food-distribution center is closed, he doesn't eat — has no wife or family to support, a fact for which he is grateful. Many people who come to the food center do have families, including the unemployed waitress who is serving the hungry; living in an abandoned building with her children and unemployed husband, she is too embarrassed to come to the center merely to take a handout.
It's a story heard over and over again. Twenty-five per cent of Spanish workers are unemployed and a growing number of them can't afford to buy enough food to live.
Consider the full impact of such a statement: "a growing number of them can't afford to buy enough food to live." What that means is that those who are fortunate enough to have homes can only pay for their housing; yet after doing so, there is no money left for the necessities of life, of living, which includes food. While the economists and political leaders in Europe (and America) might debate and dicker on how nations like Spain and Greece got in such a financial mess, they do so with little understanding of how it affects the middle-class, many of whom have now slipped into poverty—through no fault of their own.

Here are some facts. The nation was doing well financially, enjoying twenty years of sustained growth, and where 8 out of 10 individuals owned homes—the world's highest rate of home ownership. But Spain, like the United States, had a real estate bubble, a result of speculation and government incentives to encourage home ownership. Then the 2008 world recession hit it, and it has not yet recovered, resulting in a high unemployment rate, the New York Times reports: "In April 2012, Spain’s unemployment rate reached 24.4 percent, the highest in Europe and an especially stark figure given that the government had not yet begun to lay off public sector servants in any significant number."

Such are the hard facts and data, but that does not remotely tell the many individual stories of heartache and loss, and such facts matter little to the many millions of individuals, including professionals, who have lost their jobs, their residences and their way of life. Even if there is some bank bailout (an estimated €100bn of rescue loans has been set aside, with terms, of course) to resolve the liquidity crisis, as it is called by economists, it might be too little too late for many of the unemployed. The prospects of ever finding a job for many middle-aged men are now dimmer than ever. That's a shame; a real shame.

You can read the rest of the article at [Voice of America]

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