Catalonia is the second region in the EU where youth unemployment grew the most due to covid

UGT union report denounces "adultcentrism" and discrimination of young people in the labour market in the midst of the pandemic

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A ZOCO office in Barcelona

BarcelonaThe pandemic was felt the most by those who were on a temporary contract, most often young people. The first outbreak of covid-19 made youth unemployment rates soar all over Europe, but this increase was especially marked in Catalonia, as shown in the report Youth situation in Europe. Social and work analysis presented Thursday by union UGT. The union compared the evolution of job security indicators for of young across the European Union and that the 4.8 percentage points it rose in Catalonia was only behind the 5.1 points by which it shot up in Estonia.

However, Greece remains the EU country with the highest youth unemployment rate, 29.3%, followed by Spain, with 28.3%. Therefore, Catalonia is below the state average but far exceeds the European average of 12.5%. In this sense, the report also highlights that youth unemployment is five times higher in Catalonia than in Germany and points to the strong dependence on tourism (a sector which was hit hard by the pandemic and where a large number of young people work) as one of the determining factors. "The common factor throughout Europe is that there is a lot of adultcentrism," said Elena Álvarez, spokeswoman for UGT's youth wing.

The union has insisted that only 18.6% of young people in Catalonia can live independently. "We suffer almost twice as much unemployment as the total population, more than twice as much temporary employment, more than twice as much part-time work and, in addition, we are the most at risk of suffering poverty and social exclusion," the organisation says. Álvarez also stressed that among young people it is more common to work part-time because they cannot get a full-time contract, a situation that is more common in southern European countries than in northern Europe. On the other hand, she pointed out that only 10% of unemployed people under 30 have access to unemployment benefits, compared to 36% of those over 30. "If we become unemployed we are completely helpless," she added.

The UGT demands in this context to repeal labour reforms "that suffocate young people making the labour market dramatically more precarious" and encourage permanent contracts to reduce the high levels of temporality. In addition, it also calls for more resources for labour inspections and to take into account the psychosocial risks linked to the increase in mental health disorders among young people as a result of the pandemic. "Stress, depression, anxiety and suicide are largely the result of living in a system that does not take care of people," the union states.

Limit to temporary hiring

The UGT's report coincided with changes in the Spanish government's proposal to reduce the abusive use of temporary contracts in the State. Thus, it proposes that these contracts be used for specific peaks of activity, that they last a maximum duration of three months and that limits be applied according to the size of the company. For example, a company of up to five workers could only sign one temporary worker each calendar year. Álvarez has criticised the measure being linked to the volume of workers in the company and has insisted that temporary contracts ought to be exclusively to cover specific periods. "The problem is that most of the contracts that we young people sign are temporary, and it has been proven that they are not for specific situations, so we end up linking one contract after another," Álvarez concluded.