Quantcast
Latest Stories

Middle class to underclass in impoverished Spain

By

People queue to enter a government job center in Madrid, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. The number of people officially registered as unemployed in Spain has edged up toward 5 million as the country’s recession shows few signs of abating and its struggling banks await crucial bailout cash, Spain’s Labor Ministry said Tuesday. AP

BURGOS—As the first snow of winter falls, a crowd squeezes through the door of the charity shelter. Women, immigrants, the homeless and jobless—the swelling ranks of Spain’s economic casualties.

Among them, Carmen Perez, 52, rummages through a pile of winter clothes and pulls out a thick coat, for sale for handful of euros. In Spain’s recession, she can’t afford to buy one from a shop.

“I am here because of the cold. This will keep me nice and warm,” says Perez, who has been coming for the past year to this help centre run by the Catholic charity Caritas in the northern town of Burgos.

“Here if you have nothing, they give you things for free,” she says, her little face peeping out from a big woolly hat.

She earns 800 euros ($1,000) a month cash-in-hand as a cleaning lady, of which 400 go on rent and the rest help support her husband and three grown-up sons— all four unemployed.

That makes her a typical example of a victim of the crisis in Spain, where the collapse of the construction industry has left nearly two million families with all working-age members unemployed, according to government figures.

But the typical profile is changing. The queue at the shelter is lengthening as the crisis, having already crushed the poorest in Spain, is now ruining the middle class.

“The crisis is affecting middle-class people who previously were in a more stable situation,” says one of the workers at the centre, David Polo.

“There is no one in Spain who has not felt the effects of the crisis, except for the very, very rich.”

At the shelter’s reception in this historic town of 170,000, homeless people trying to rebuild their lives wait their turn for one of 40 spaces in the shelter’s bedrooms.

Others are simply seeking to escape the cold for a night; come evening they unroll their blankets on camp beds in a large stone dormitory.

Staff member David Alonso says 1,100 people have slept at the emergency shelter this year so far—as many as came overall in 2011.

“People are starting to come who previously were living a normal life. The average age is getting lower—it is between 35 and 40, whereas before it was between 40 and 50,” he says.

“There has also been a substantial rise in the number of women.”

In the year since Mariano Rajoy and his conservative Popular Party won power, the unemployment rate has passed 25 percent, and a huge 52 percent among those aged 16-24.

Humanitarian groups warn that poverty is surging and spreading. One study by the European Union said 12.7 million of the 47 million people in Spain were at risk of poverty or other forms of so-called social exclusion.

“When they lose their jobs, problems start to emerge that before were hidden—alcohol, addictions,” said Alonso. “These are people who were more or less normal, and when they lose their jobs, exclusion grows.”

Next door to the Caritas shelter, the San Vicente de Paul canteen serves lunch, tea and supper to some of the poorest people in town— such as Javier Santos, 34.

“I came here for a coffee,” he says. “There’s nowhere else I can get one.”

Two years ago Javier had a girlfriend, a rented apartment and up to 2,800 euros a month from his job as a metal worker.

Now unemployed, separated and homeless, he sits for long hours in the charity canteen at a table with his companions, watching television.

“I never would have imagined finding myself in this situation,” he said.

“Last year I voted for the Popular Party so they would change things, but things changed for the worse.”

A voluntary worker at the canteen, Julian Garcia, 60, says that he has seen the crisis spread in the faces of those turning up at its door.

“Previously there were lots of immigrants, but for the past three years the number of local people has grown alarmingly— people who have no resources and have to search for food.”

In a few days, Javier says, he will become eligible for some temporary welfare benefits to help him get by.

“I will try to eat with that,” he says. When the money runs out, I will come back here.”


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Caritas , euros , Popular Party , Spain , Spain’s crisis , Spain’s economy




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  2. Cagayan mayor shot dead after flag-raising ceremony
  3. Obama, family cause a small stir at Easter service
  4. Santiago sees Palace hand in Gigi’s return
  5. ‘Malang’ next crocodile attraction after ‘Lolong’
  6. Gigi Reyes’ only option: tell all
  7. Malaysia Airlines jet turns back after tire burst
  8. Ancient enigmatic carvings in danger of disappearing
  9. New plant to boost supply of clean energy
  10. More bodies from ship; transcript reveals wavering
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  7. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
Advertisement

News

  • Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  • Group: Bataan cop killed to stop him from exposing colleagues linked to drug ring
  • Chemical Engineer licensure examination
  • Troubled history fuels Japan-China tension
  • Palace: Our concern is to ensure MRT runs smoothly
  • Sports

  • NLEX fights off Derulo Accelero to remain unbeaten
  • Mayweather diehard Bieber eats pride, poses with Pacquiao for photo op
  • Power Pinays rip Singapore to enter quarters in Asian volley tilt
  • PBA D-League: Waves edge skidding Superchargers
  • Ilad’s last-second basket lifts Gems over Bakers
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Arrest warrants out vs. Deniece Cornejo, Cedric Lee, et al over serious illegal detention
  • Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage
  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Business

  • Century Pacific Food sets IPO price at P13.75 per share
  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Balikatan could spoil peace talks, says militant group
  • DFA officers hold workshop on aiding human traffic victims
  • Canada in communication with PH on toxic wastes
  • Filipinos in Middle East urged not to panic amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement