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Voices on the Street: Employed and Unemployed in Barcelona

The Spanish economy, long enamored with bubbles, is set for rocketing unemployment again this year. Big Think, in collaboration with Barcelona Reporter, talked to some Barcelona residents to see how they were getting by.

Spain has seen bad unemployment before. It flirted with 22% after the boom years of the “Spanish miracle.” The early 90s saw better times, but the jobless rate was again above 20% by 1995. Here are five voices from the ground:

“I can say that I am one of the fortunate few whose salary has risen this year, but I don’t know if that’s luck or a disgrace. I am playing into the hand of the enemy, working extremely hard to save a financial institution from delinquency and desiring with all my heart that once and for all this capitalism would just go away.”

Anna, 32, Taxation Specialist

“The recession sucks. I got fired last week and am moving to Shanghai for a year. I am going to study Chinese for two semesters. I will probably be back in Barcelona in May, next year, depending on the economy.”

Carlos, 28, Former Corporate Auditor

“I think the banks have a lot to answer for. They have made it easy for people to get into debt, even here in Catalonia where the Spanish people are generally very careful with their money. Many people got caught up in the property boom and this has stretched their resources as the crisis arrived.

The future for me is uncertain my bar opens this week for Semana Santa and I am hoping that things will go well. Many people in the past have taken a holiday during Semana Santa, but due to the crisis I don’t think this will be the case this year, I believe that many will be taking a holiday at home. I hope that if this is the case many of our locals will be making the most of the local bars and restaurants.
The only benefit at the moment is that everyone is in the same situation and therefore this gives me a bargaining tool with my suppliers.
How long this current crisis will last is hard to say but I feel that at some point we should reach a plateau where things don’t get any worse and then maybe we will have to spend the following two years recuperating from it’s effects and we could then re-establish the economy.”
Barbara, 31, Student and Owner of an El Vendrell beach bar
“The crisis is a product of our own making. People say ‘it’s the banks or the property boom’. Well, I have never seen people forced to borrow money or dragged into a car showroom or hypnotized into buying a house or apartment that they can ill afford.
I am fortunate I have a good pension, I don’t drive, I own my own home and I don’t take exotic vacations but I still have to be careful.
I feel that after what seems like a worldwide crisis, people will hopefully learn from this experience and be more careful in the future and will not underestimate the fact that you never know what is around the corner.
I do not believe that we have seen the worst of it yet, especially here in Catalonia. Unemployment keeps rising, the banks are still experiencing problems, the construction industry has nearly collapsed, the housing market is stagnent and the need for social aide has risen sharply here in Catalonia. After reflecting on these facts maybe in two or three years time we might just see some of these trends starting to reverse but not just yet.”
Jordi, Retired Lawyer

“I have been very careful over the last year or so with my money. I could see that the economy couldn’t keep growing as it was. People were riding on the crest of a wave and thought it was possible to carry on forever, even some of my friends. It has been so easy to get into debt. I have been very lucky as we’ve had our house for many years, my car is very old and my son is a student, so the crisis hasn’t affected us as much as it has others. I grow a lot of my own food in my garden and when it comes to taking our holidays, we will spend a great deal of time searching out the best prices.
If you have been fortunate enough not to have been hit so badly with the crisis, then their are a few benefits such as; plenty of bargains in the shops, especially the electrical stores they have been offering very large discounts, car dealers are nearly begging you to buy a new car.
I am not sure when this situation will start to get better but what I do believe is that, this situation will have given people an opportunity to reflect on past decisions and hopefully not get carried away in a world where we value our life on the things we possess.”
Carmen, 40, Special Needs Teacher


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