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Working class poverty and deceitful promises

2020-10-08 | Spain


Almost 4 out of 10 workers (34.6%) do not have a stable full-time job. Of the 13.5% of the population who have a part-time job, almost half of them, 48.1%, would like to be employed full time.

If we focus on the serious labor instability section, we find 7.8 million workers in a situation that is extended through their families. What does this serious instability mean for these working families? For 52.2%, it means not being able to face unforeseen expenses, so almost all of them, 42% of the total, have to ask for help from relatives and friends for basic things. 3 out of 10 families in this situation are unable to meet basic rent, mortgage or utility payments and 2 out of 10 have received shut-off notices because of insufficient money to pay for them.

In Spain, having a job is not enough to avoid poverty. 2.5 million workers live in poverty despite being employed. They make up 13% of the total and are not even the worst off: another 3.1% are under severe poverty. On the border are 615,000 workers without access to legal protections and basic coverage. This figure includes migrant undocumented workers. A quarter of them declare to suffer humiliating or degrading working conditions.

The famous safeguards for the most vulnerable do not reach the vast majority of the most precarious working families. Only one out of four (24.8%) households supported by a person in a situation of serious labor instability receive some kind of unemployment benefit or minimum income.

The income gap trap

Finally, the report uses the methodology of gaps. This is a tricky methodology because it mixes social classes, time of arrival on the labor market, etc. and above all, implicitly, it creates the idea of collective subjects (women, young people, non-natives, etc.) who should as a whole receive a part of the wage mass proportional to their sociological size. In other words, the idea is that for an equal number of employees in a company, the sum of wages paid to women/young people/non-natives, etc. should be equal in total, regardless of how it is distributed among workers, managers, directors and owners within the same collective subject.

The trap is that this has nothing to do with receiving equal pay for equal work, nor with having similar hiring conditions for similar jobs, but with these imaginary groups having a greater or lesser presence among the middle and upper management of the companies, whose salaries are much higher. Hiring a great manager like Ana Botín (who has a salary of 7.8 million euros per year) has more effect on the gender gap than raising by 50% the salary of 1,126 workers earning the minimum wage of 13,300 euros per year. Hiring the son of an SME owner as a boss would end the gender gap of the average Spanish SME and hiring a couple of foreign managers would reverse the gender gap of an average industrial company.


The value of the data

The report, which is actually a collection of official data, is quite consistent with previous reports. A few months before the outbreak of the pandemic, on October 17th, the AROPE report was published, a European indicator of the risk of poverty and exclusion drawn up with data from Eurostat and the INE for the period between 2008 and 2018. The figures worsened again in 2018 in Spain despite the increase in GDP. The number of people who had difficulty making ends meet increased and now accounted for more than half of the total population. They were unable to meet unforeseen expenses, turn on the heating in winter or eat meat, chicken or fish at least every other day.


And this is something that is more important than ever to remember now. Yesterday, Sánchez promised 800,000 jobs, to leave no one behind and to end the gender gap. The message was: Be nice, accept cuts and lower wages, accept that the killing will proceed without stopping the companies, that this will end someday and then welfare will return.


Wage share in Spanish GDP since 1978 (including profit shares disguised as wages) The labor share only grows when capital crashes and has not yet had time to attack wages, spending on labor power maintenance and working conditions even more.

The main gap is not the gender one, nor the generational one, nor any other statistical invention. The gap that tears this society apart is that which separates the part of social production that workers receive, that is, the part of what we produce together that is dedicated to satisfying our needs, from the part that is dedicated to accumulating capital. The part of labor does not cease to decline in relative terms. And with a permanent tendency towards crisis for decades, this means that it is falling more and more frequently in absolute terms as well.

pauperization|making us poorer