The owner of a business in Valencia closes his establishment on January 21.Robayna / Europa Press
After “coronavirus”, “covid-19” and “pandemic” the next most used word in Spain during the last 16 months may have been “ERTE”. The temporary regulation of employment due to force majeure derived from the coronavirus have been – and continue to be – the tool that has sustained the labor market after a drop in activity without equal in world economic history. In Spain, up to 3.4 million people were totally or partially suspended from employment at the end of April 2020, a figure that, fortunately, has been losing weight since then, and today, according to the latest statistics on registered unemployment. , they are only 447,800. This explains why the job destruction in this crisis has been much more attenuated than in previous recessions.
The doubts around the ERTEs have always orbited around the date until which they should remain in force. Its last extension gives them winding up until September 30, but its continuity beyond the end of the summer ― despite the fact that heavyweights of the Government such as the Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, have rushed to announce its maintenance “the necessary time ”- remains in question. Not so much because they are still necessary or not, but because they should help all sectors, or only those most in need. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Social Security, Food and Beverage Services (114,174 workers in ERTE) and Accommodation Services (78,789) currently concentrate 43.1% of workers in this situation.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has positioned itself in this second way and thus translates it in the section dedicated to Spain in its report OECD Employment Outlook 2021: Navigating the Covid-19 Crisis and Recovery that he presented this Wednesday. “Looking to the future, the support [los ERTE] it should be maintained in sectors where activity remains restricted, but it should be more selective towards jobs in sectors with the potential to resume ”, he indicates.
According to the calculations detailed in the study, the different employment maintenance programs implemented during the hardest moments of the crisis by the OECD countries ―Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Spain, the United States, France, Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Japan, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Czech Republic, Korea, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Chile, Israel, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Colombia – supported “about 60 million jobs.” And according to these estimates, they saved 21 million jobs.
According to the OECD, the protective mantle that ERTEs represented for the labor market in Spain acquired dimensions in line with those of other similar tools in other countries: its impact reached 20% of jobs, ten times more than during the 2008 financial crisis. However, thanks to the lifting of restrictions and progress in the vaccination process, in 2021 this was reduced to 6% at the beginning of the year.
Even so, the main recommendation that the Paris-based body transmits, both to Spain and to the rest of the member countries, is that the best way to promote economic reactivation and “rebuild an inclusive labor market” is to strengthen public services in employment and betting on active policies that stimulate it. “They are essential to help large numbers of job seekers move from declining sectors to growing sectors,” he says; “And to help companies retain and hire staff and to provide intensive individual support to particularly vulnerable people,” he adds.
In a broader panorama, the OECD data on the damages caused by the pandemic in the labor market are devastating: during 2020, approximately 22 million jobs were lost compared to 2019 among the countries that make up this union, and 114 million worldwide. In addition, despite the efforts made by all of them and the upward trend in the recovery of many economies, there are still eight million more unemployed than before the pandemic, and the number of people who are not actively looking for a job stands at 14 million above pre-crisis levels.
Regarding general unemployment values in the OECD, the rate fell slightly in May 2021 – the last reference month – to 6.6% (compared to 6.7% in April 2021), and remains 1, 3 percentage points above the level shown in February 2020, the last pre-pandemic month. Regarding the number of unemployed workers, it stood at 43.5 million in May 2021, 8.1 million more than in February 2020; and the youth unemployment rate reached 13.6%, still 2.2 percentage points above its pre-pandemic level.