Cuts, uncertainty and unemployment: Spain is holding a strike on Wednesday November 14th, which will be the second General Strike in less than a year…

Strikes in SpainSpain, a country with 47 million citizens (2011), is visited by millions of tourists each year.  Spain traditionally has a diverse economy, comprising of agriculture, livestock, fisheries, mining, industry, energy, tourism, science and technology, transport and telecommunications.

During the housing bubble, the majority of the population was working, earning good salaries (often exorbitant), and not lacking food at home. People could pay their mortgages, eat out, have modern cars and even invest in second (or third) homes.  But this was an economy based on borrowing and overspending, and the bubble inevitably had to burst one day.

The Spain of 2012 is going through difficult times.

Current situation in Spain

Many Spanish people can’t pay their mortgages because they have no money and the little they have or receive, they use to get food. This has led to a situation where each day 500 people are evicted from their homes across the country, and in some cases this has led to suicides.

As a result, the “Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca” (an association that helps people who are struggling to pay their mortgage) has been created in most Spanish cities, to help protect home owners.

For example, in the Region of Murcia, they have succeeded in stopping more than 80 evictions. When an eviction is prevented, the family gain time for negotiating with the bank. “Payment in kind” has been proposed, this is where the house is handed over to the bank (with or without opposition) and the debt is settled. Priority is decided based on physiological needs, such as “eating”.

The cuts to education have been some of the hardest to swallow for the Spanish people. Tuition fees have risen by about 500 euros meaning there will be fewer students, and therefore more ignorance. It is a vicious cycle, which threatens the long term prosperity of the country.

All this is happening at a time when the government is bailing out banks with taxpayers money and cutting funds for the health service, education and social services.

Spain: sun and beaches, beer, tapas, holidays and parties… But all that glitters is not gold in this case.

What now for Spain?

This last month Spain reached record unemployment figures.

More than 25% of the population in Spain (nearly 6 million) are out of work. More than half of young people cannot work. There are nearly 2 million unemployed households – a staggering figure.

The rate of emigration is rising. There are about 2.4 million Spanish people living abroad now, and the number is rising as the Spanish people become increasingly agitated at the situation in their home country.

The strike on November 14th is the second of the year, and it will be interesting to see how things develop tomorrow as hundreds of thousands are expected to protest in the streets.

Tomasa Pérez Macanás