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The Catalan Parliament debates on measures to fight youth unemployment

The Catalan Parliament has devoted a two-day plenary session to debate the youth unemployment problem and how it could be reduced. According to the latest Active Population Survey (EPA), the youth unemployment rate in Catalonia reached 52.7%. This means that 1 out of 2 youngsters between 16 and 24 years old who want to work cannot find a job. Around 151,000 youngsters are unemployed in Catalonia; 64% of them worked in the service sector and 17% have never worked. The Catalan President, Artur Mas, asked to manage the proportional share of the European Union’s funds allocated to fight youth unemployment in Spain, since the Catalan Executive holds the competences.

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24 July 2013 10:00 PM

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ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Parliament has devoted a two-day plenary session to debate about youth unemployment problem and how it could be reduced. The debate had been asked by all the political parties except the People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government. According to the latest Active Population Survey (EPA), youth unemployment rate in Catalonia reached 52.7%. The Spanish average was 53.2%. The situation means that 1 out of 2 youngsters between 16 and 24 years old who want to work are unable to find a job. This affects 151,000 individuals in Catalonia according to the latest EPA. Furthermore, according to registered unemployment figures (which are lower than the EPA), 64% of the unemployed youngsters had worked in the service sector in their latest job and 17% have never worked. In addition, 23% are foreign-nationals (4% EU citizens and 19% non-EU citizens). During the parliamentary debate, which started on Wednesday, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, explained that 90% of youngsters abandoning Catalonia looking for new job opportunities do not have Spanish nationality. Additionally, the Catalan President asked to manage the proportional share of the European Union’s funds allocated to fight youth unemployment in Spain. Mas argued that the Catalan Executive holds the competences in this matter and therefore it should manage Catalonia’s part of the €1.9 billion EU funds allocated to Spain. According to Mas’ calculations, this would represent managing €300 million. He asked the political parties to reach “deep and long-term agreements” to improve the current situation and insisted in the need to foster education, in order to have better prepared and more skilled professionals. In fact, the main Catalan nationalist parties also asked to improve education levels. In addition, they blamed the Spanish Government’s fiscal redistribution, which damages the Catalan economy and the consequent creation of jobs, as well as under-budgeting the Catalan Government’s education system and the Catalan Public Employment Service (SOC). Some Left-Wing opposition parties criticised the Catalan Government for having “forgotten” about the youngsters and having “given up” the fight for them and their future. In addition they denounced the fragile working conditions of those who have a job. What is more, the PP told Mas to “forget about” the independence claims and “to govern”.


The Catalan Government announces that 25% of its job programmes will be for youngsters

In the parliamentary debate, the Catalan Minister for Business and Employment, Felip Puig, announced that the Catalan Employment Service (SOC) will allocate 25% of the positions in its programmes (i.e. trainings, internships or job placements) to unemployed people between 16 and 30 years old. According to the Catalan Government, the measure will benefit 50,000 people. “With the resources existing today, next year we will be in the position to guarantee that around 50% of the youngsters without a job can have an offer of employment, internship or training. In addition, Puig explained that, if the Catalan Government can finally manage the €300 million coming from the €1.9 billion allocated to Spain by the EU to fight youth unemployment, the SOC will be able to include in its programmes the 100% of the unemployed youngsters. As the Catalan President had previously requested, Puig asked the Catalan Parliament’s groups to demand the territorialisation of such funds. On top of this, Puig reminded that the Catalan Government will allocate €25 million to develop active employment policies aiming youngsters.

“Catalonia’s fiscal mistreatment” is behind youth unemployment, according to the CiU and ERC

The main Catalan nationalist parties have blamed the Spanish Government’s fiscal redistribution process for damaging the Catalan economy and public services. “Fiscal deficit also means employment destruction”, stated Marta Pascal, an MP from the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), which runs the Catalan Government. Pascal insisted that “Catalonia’s fiscal mistreatment results in youth unemployment”, since a large share of taxes paid by Catalan citizens and companies “never come back”. This means that the Catalan economy is drained and the public services offered by the Catalan Government are under-budgeted, including education and employment services.

In a similar vein, the President of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), Oriol Junqueras, denounced Catalonia’s economic “kidnapping” made by the fiscal deficit imposed by the Spanish Government. Junqueras reminded that each year, 8.5% of  Catalan GDP is given away to pay for services and investments in other parts of Spain, an amount equivalent to €16.5 billion per year. However, Junqueras insisted that Catalonia needs to prioritise education and allocate more resources to this area, in order to improve education quality, as “future competitiveness” will “in a great extent” depend on this effort. Furthermore, he criticised the Spanish Government for having reduced by 57% the budget for active employment policies this year.

Opposition parties criticise the fragile working conditions of the youngsters

The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) criticised Mas for having “given up” fighting the economic crisis. The Secretary-General of the PSC, Pere Navarro, reminded Mas that “never before in Catalonia’s history were there so many youngsters without a job”, denouncing that many of them have “to decide between studying or inactivity”. Navarro proposed to launch “a project of universal heritage”, as “the maximum expression of a public policy looking for inter-generational solidarity”. The PSC accused Mas “of dismantling” the public education system and proposed to create a fund to pay for the university tuition fees of all the youngsters who cannot afford them.

The Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) accused the Catalan Government that its policies are “kidnapping” the future of the youngsters because they are condemned to “uncertainty” and “precariousness”. The ICV-EUiA Co-President, Dolors Camats, asked for “the total reorientation” of the employment policies of the Catalan, Spanish and European governments. According to them, such policies are lowering the working conditions of youngsters, resulting in “a cheap society”.

The anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s) accused the Catalan Government of “forgetting about the youngsters” and “turning its back on them”. The President of C’s, Albert Rivera, asked Mas to prioritise policies focusing on “the creation of companies” and keeping them running, because they are “those contracting”.

The radical left-wing and independence party CUP asked for “a change of values” because the youngsters do not want to become the “temporary workers of the 21st century”. The CUP asked to cancel the Labour Market Reform pushed for by the current Spanish Government. In addition, they asked for an increase in work inspections, in particular with temporary jobs. They also stated that empty houses should be allowed to be occupied.

The PP offers the Spanish Government’s “open hand”

The People’s Party – which was the only party refusing to hold this parliamentary debate – offered the Spanish Government’s “open hand” to cooperate with the Catalan Executive to fight youth unemployment. The PP leader in Catalonia, Alícia Sánchez-Camacho, asked Mas “to forget about” independence claims and “to govern” in order “not to sacrifice an entire generation of youngsters”. Sánchez-Camacho asked Mas to join “the reform agenda” pushed by the Spanish Government. “You are arriving seven months late, but theirs is still time”, she added.

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  • The Catalan Parliament holding the debate on youth unemployment (by A. Moldes)

  • The Catalan Parliament holding the debate on youth unemployment (by A. Moldes)