Spain jobless spillover worries neighbors

Oct. 26, 2012 at 4:52 PM
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MADRID, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Spain's spiraling unemployment and a simultaneous increase in the number of Spanish and other citizens fleeing the country in search of better prospects are worrying neighbors of the economically troubled nation.

The third quarter's unemployment rate in Spain was the highest reported in the 17-nation eurozone of the 27-member European community. About one-fourth of Spain's employable are without jobs.

The jobless rate in the second quarter of 2012 was marginally lower but the latest increase touched a raw nerve among Spain's politicians, especially as more than 18 million people are known to be unemployed across eurozone.

Worried over increased immigration from mainland Europe, British officials began drawing up contingency plans this year to cope with a large increase in new arrivals and even to block European arrivals if necessary.

Spain's current troubles began with a property bubble that burst last year, leaving banks with hundreds of millions of dollars in bad loans.

The rising jobless rate saddles the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy with a higher bill for state benefits for those without jobs and other costs related to Spanish residents considered financially vulnerable.

The rising jobless rate also means the government has to lower expectations of reviving the economy with more consumer spending and greater credit confidence -- both ill-timed as Rajoy hoes to reassure international lenders that Spain can repay its debts.

Despite official assurances, financial analysts continue to predict a deeper recession and its effect on Spain and its troubled neighbors, including France, Italy and Portugal.

Rajoy and aides say they still hope to avoid requesting a bailout from the eurozone rescue funds but analysts see a Spanish bailout call as an inevitable outcome.

An added complication for Spain is the trouble brewing in its semi-autonomous regions. About one-third of the 17 regions are facing difficulties paying debts or running the regions. Five have asked for help from the country's regional liquidity fund, which has limited resources, about $23 billion.

The fund is increasingly under spotlight for its potential capacity to hand out cash relief to the distressed regions.

The National Statistics Institute estimates about 1 million people have left Spain since January 2011 and the trend is intensifying.

Officials said the departure of many migrants to their home countries in Africa and Latin America could ease Spain's immediate burden of the jobless but analysts said the exodus of skilled and qualified Spaniards would affect Spain's economic recovery.

About half of those leaving Spain in the period belonged to the 18-28-year age group, the institute's data showed.

Spanish population depleted from about 47,153,000 to about 46,117,000 over a 21-month period covered by the report.

British Home Secretary Theresa May told the Telegraph newspaper "work is ongoing" to restrict European immigration in the event of a further deterioration in the eurozone. She said Britain was examining "trends" to see whether immigration from the eurozone's stricken economies was on the increase.

Large shifts in immigration within the eurozone have put German and French immigration officials on alert against any noticeable increase in numbers.

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