The European Commission’s insistence that Spain take action on flex contracts leads to a concrete promise from the Prime Minister. Revision of the Staff Regulations for Government Employees will start this year.
The relatively large number of temporary employment contracts, both in the public and non-public sector, is the Achilles heel of the Spanish economy. This became painfully clear again in the past year. Temporary employment contracts are bad for competitiveness, make the economy vulnerable in times of crisis and increase socio-economic inequality in the country. The European Commission therefore required Spain to address this problem before qualifying for the EU support package.
30 percent temporary contracts in the public sector
In the business world, 25% of all employment contracts are of a temporary nature. In the public sector this percentage is even higher: three in ten employees lack the security of a permanent job. The healthcare sector tops the list with almost 42% of temporary employment contracts. In education, more than 29% now have a flexible employment contract. Recently, Minister José Luis Escrivá of Social Security and Migration and Miquel Iceta of Territorial Policy also announced that this current situation is unacceptable. Iceta, in an interview with El País, spoke of a maximum period of two or three years to tackle this problem.
Back to eight percent
However, the European Commission has hit the table harder. It is demanding immediate reforms to reduce the percentage of flex contracts to 8%. Sources around the Prime Minister have confirmed that in the next six months, at least before the start of the new year, the Statute for Government Employees will be revised. However, the government has not set itself the goal of reducing the percentage of flex contracts within this period to the requested eight percent; that will be a gradual process.
The reforms are being implemented by the Ministry of Finance, in collaboration with the different autonomous regions. Within the civil service of the central government, temporary contractsstand at 8%. However, this rises to almost 40% in other areas. In the Canary Islands, for example, 56% of healthcare workers do not have a permanent contract. The same applies to 45% of the teaching staff in the Cantabria region.
Four million flex workers
In Spain a total of four million people work on temporary contracts. Within the government alone, there are about 600,000. This is largely a legacy of the 2012 economic crisis and the budget cuts that followed. Since then, this has made the labour market a lot more unstable. The overload of the health care system in the past year as a result of covid-19 is an example. Between 2012 and 2015, none of the permanent employees who retired were replaced with new permanent workers. Replenishment of the workforce took place exclusively with flexible contracts.
The Spanish government now wants to gradually transfer all temporary contracts, which repeatedly renew, to permanent employment. The revision of the Staff Regulations for Government Employees should provide more than half a million Spanish households with more job security.