Catalonia, among hardest hit by restrictions in EU
According to Brussels, a 50% reduction of these measures would boost Catalan GDP by 5.7%
BarcelonaCatalonia, along with Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Andalusia, is one of the European regions where the 2020 restrictions had a greater economic impact, according to a study by the European Commission
The report simulates the impact that halving restrictive measures would have on the gross domestic product (GDP) - the indicator that measures the economic activity of a territory - on different European regions. In this simulation, Catalonia is among the regions of the European Union where the easing of restrictions would lead to stronger growth: between 4.5% and 5.7%.
In Europe, only two countries have regions that would experience stronger growth, Italy and Ireland. In the case of Italy, the central and northern regions of the country - the initial epicentre of the pandemic in February last year - would be the ones that would grow the most, even over 7% in places like Friuli - Venezia Giulia and Trento - South Tyrol in the north-east of the country, or Umbria and the Marche, in the centre. In Ireland, both the northern half and, above all, the southern half, which includes the capital Dublin, would grow at rates above 6%.
By states, Spain, with a growth of 4.8%, along with Italy, Greece, France and Ireland, would benefit the most, with positive impacts on economic activity of 4% to 6.2%. In contrast, "the northern and eastern regions of the EU are those that would have fewer gains and a more homogeneous response" to a hypothetical lifting of health restrictions imposed on the economy, according to the report.
400.000 jobs in Spain
The Commission's report also analyses the impact on the labour market of lifting health restrictions. In this sense, the document estimates that halving the restrictions that were in place in 2020 would save 1.6 million jobs in the whole of the European Union. By country, Spain would clearly be the most favoured, with about 400,000 jobs saved, which represents about 2% of employment in the country. On the other hand, in central Europe and the Nordic countries, a relaxation of anticovid measures would have an almost minimal impact on the labour market (in Belgium and Poland, jobs would even be destroyed).
In the case of Catalonia, the impact on the workforce in this hypothetical scenario would be above the Spanish average, between 2.1% and 2.4% of employment saved. At the same level would be most of the autonomous communities of the Mediterranean coast of the State, such as the Balearic Islands, Valencia, Murcia and Andalusia, as well as Castilla-La Mancha. These data reinforce the idea that tourism is one of the main engines of employment in both Spain and Catalonia, since this sector has more weight precisely in these autonomous communities.
More tourism, less occupation
According to the text, "the impact of the crisis tends to be stronger the further south in Europe". That is, the southernmost states, among which is Spain, are those who are suffering more from the crisis resulting from the pandemic, a fact that has been known for months but that the Commission again demonstrated with data.
The study explains this is due to the composition of economies in the south compared to the north: "The results suggest that the higher the proportion of employment in services with physical interaction, such as hotels and physical trade, the greater the loss of jobs," it concludes. It should be borne in mind that tourism is one of the most prominent sectors of the Catalan economy, with 16% of GDP before the pandemic.
"One of the main conclusions of the analysis is that it is worth the efforts made by the EU to improve the epidemiological scenarios in 2021 and reduce restrictions and lockdowns," the text concludes. The reason is that "GDP and employment would improve significantly and compensate for the extra costs that governments would have to face when implementing them," it adds
In addition, the document recalls that both in terms of the impact on the whole economy and on the labour market, "countries do not behave as homogeneous economic blocs", so it stresses "the importance of considering the economic characteristics of each region to implement the most effective measures".