Spain: Trade unions criticise Employment Activation Plan
Trade unions criticised the ‘Employment Activation Plan’ for imposing strict requirements on potential beneficiaries of the plan, resulting in low uptake.
On 15 December 2014, the Spanish Government and social partners signed the Employment Activation Plan (Programa de Activación para el Empleo, PAE), with the objective of improving the employability of unemployed people who have particular difficulties in accessing the labour market. This plan was aimed at promoting the labour market insertion of long-term unemployed people with dependants, who had already used up other public aids and subsidies, offering them 426 euro per month, as well as support and guidance. The Plan was regulated by Royal Decree-Act 16/2014.
Initially, it was expected that this plan would help around 450,000 persons, who would receive 426 euro per month for a period of six months. The programme was launched on 15 January 2015 and ran until 15 April 2016. It was one of the most important social agreements signed by the Spanish Government during the 2011–2015 legislature of the Popular Party.
At the end of March 2016, before the end of the programme, many experts criticised the fact that the Plan was not meeting its objectives. Out of the 1,200 million euro allocated to the programme, only 182 million euro had been spent, and barely 25% of the expected beneficiaries were receiving the announced financial aid (around 100,000 individuals). More precisely, data provided by the Ministry of Employment indicated that the Employment Activation Plan assisted 161,583 unemployed people, who received labour market insertion support and guidance, with a personalised insertion itinerary. Furthermore, 99,410 individuals received the subsidy of 426 euro per month, and 15,212 got a job thanks to their participation in the programme. Considering these data (particularly if compared to initial expectations in December 2014) trade unions argued that the Plan had been a failure. The reasons behind these unsatisfactory outcomes could be linked to the tough requirements demanded to access the plan. In contrast, the Spanish Government was satisfied with the results, and happy to announce that almost 100,000 persons were receiving the individual financial aid.
At the beginning of April 2016, representatives of the trade unions CCOO and UGT and employer organisations CEPYME (Spanish Confederation of SMEs) and CEOE (Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations) held a meeting with the Secretary of State of Employment (Juan Pablo Riesgo) to evaluate the results of the Employment Activation Plan. At this meeting, trade unions tried to convince the government to extend this plan longer in time, and to reduce the requirements asked of the unemployed to receive this subsidy. As trade unions did not receive any positive answer in this respect, they were afraid that the Government would not further extend the Plan.