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Spain unveils plan to get young back to work

Source: Reuters - Tue 12th Mar 2013
Spain unveils plan to get young back to work

Spain pledged €3.5 billion over 4 years earlier today to ease mass unemployment among the country's youth, as the government tries to stem a relentless tide of layoffs and lengthening jobless queues.

PM Mariano Rajoy presented 100 different measures including tax breaks for young freelance workers and for companies that hire workers in their 20s.

Many of the measures, such as lower social security payments for young self-employed workers and up-front payment of unemployment benefits for entrepreneurs, had been announced previously.

Today they were wrapped into a single strategy.

During 5 years of economic stagnation and recession, Spain's unemployment rate has risen to 26% - the highest level since the 1970s and one of the highest in the EU - and more than half of 18-25 year olds are out of work.

More and more young Spaniards are studying German and English and heading abroad to find work.

Public anger is growing over austerity measures to tackle government overspending, which have aggravated economic problems, and over €40 billion in public debt spent on rescuing banks that loaned too freely to builders during a real estate boom that ended in 2008.

With more than 5 million people out of work, job losses have accelerated in the first months of 2013.

Spain's 35 blue chip companies have announced more than 35,000 layoffs so far this year, compared with 18,000 layoffs by the same companies last year, according to a report in El Economista newspaper.

Rajoy spoke to an audience of union, company and government representatives at the Moncloa government palace.

But labour union leaders did not wait to hear the details before expressing scepticism over the new strategy.

"If the government does not re-orient its economic policy to make growth and jobs a priority instead of deficit cutting, the effects of the plan will have a limited effect and the economic recession and job destruction will continue," Spain's 2 biggest union federations, CCOO and UGT said in a statement just before Rajoy made the announcement.

Rajoy has said that any stimulus measures for the economy and jobs will not undermine his determination to cut the budget deficit in line with EU demands.

The government has trimmed the budget by tens of billions of euros this year and last, cutting public sector wages and limiting health and education spending at a time when the economy is shrinking an estimated 1.5% per year.

A third of the funding for the jobs plans will come from a European Special Fund, Rajoy said.