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Spanish regions top European Union unemployment tables

Por: | 23 de abril de 2014

Seven of the ten EU regions with the highest unemployment are Spanish, including the top four.

Get all the data used in this article here.

More fantastic economic news: seven of the ten EU regions with highest unemployment during 2013 were in Spain, including all of the top four, according to data from Eurostat.

Such depressing figures clearly show the depth of the employment problem facing Spain, and that any talk of a recovery means little to the millions of people still looking for work. The numbers make for pretty glum reading all around, including youth unemployment.

What’s more, the cost of labour in Spain hasn’t decreased, meaning it isn’t any cheaper to employ people or to export Spanish goods.

Here is a breakdown of the ten EU regions with the highest unemployment:

Of the ten regions with the lowest unemployment, not one is in Spain, and all are in northern Europe or Scandinavia.

Spain features only slightly less strongly in the 15-24 bracket, with youth unemployment continuing to be a huge issue:


Spain and Greece provide the bulk of the regions affected by high unemployment, which is unsurprising. France features but only through its overseas territories, Montenique and Reunion Island.  

Germany, Sweden, Austria and Finland feature frequently in the best-performing tables.

When it comes to long-term unemployment the figures Spain does not feature in the top 10. This is not always a good sign however, as it can mean that people have simply given up looking for work or have moved overseas looking for work as many young Spaniards are doing.

Spain’s unemployment in Context

Compared to the EU as a whole, Spain is lagging well below the employment average. While 10.8% of Europe’s active workforce is unemployed, the figure is a whopping 26.4% for Spain.

 Here is a simple map showing how different comunidades contribute to Spain’s total. Click on the the community you want more information for.


While Spain’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has shown modest growth it is nowhere near enough to stimulate relief in the labour market. It is generally held that sustainable annual growth of 2% is required for an economy to be creating jobs.

Spain’s problem is often viewed as a lack of competitiveness. Spanish labour costs increased when it joined the Euro and when the crisis hit the shared currency meant it was impossible to make the Euro weaker.

Weakening a currency is a good trick in times of crisis: it means that more of your goods and services will be exported even if the buying power of the currency is weakened. With a shared currency this is not an option, so instead making the products and providing the services must be made cheaper, and according to some that means cutting labour costs.

Politicians call this labour market flexibility. It means making it easy to hire and fire people through looser contracts.

Making people work for less or cutting jobs is only one approach which is roundly rejected in some quarters. Paul Krugman, who has his blog translated in this paper, is a Nobel Prize-winning economist and columnist for the New York Times.

Krugman posted about Spain’ devaluation back in 2012, and also wrote a “wonkish”, complicated post which you can read here, in which he explains the alternative: some bond-buying by the ECB and therefore inflation in the rich countries steadying the ship.

If it’s more expensive to buy olive oil in Germany, then the price a German would pay a Spaniard to import it would be relatively less.

Yup, that scenario won’t happen.

However as data from Eurostat showed last month Spain hasn’t yet managed to cut hourly labour costs anyway, which are higher now than they were in 2008:

As the graoph shows, Greece and Portugal have made cuts in their costs per hour in an attempt to improve competitiveness. In comparison, Spain's costs have remained stable and, despite falling from a 2011 peak, have begun to rise again. 

Instead, despite enforced flexibility in the public sector, there are fewer people working, more pain and no end in sight.


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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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