JOBLESS numbers went down to 3.7 million by the end of 2016, according to figures from dole offices and the Social Security, a drop of just over 390,500 on numbers from the end of 2015.
A total of 540,655 more people than a year ago are now registered on the Social Security system, meaning they are paying the Spanish equivalent of national insurance themselves on a self-employed basis or that they are employed and their companies are paying it on their behalf.
Social Security contributors are typically used as an indication of the size of the active population, and closing figures for 2016 show the highest increase in a decade.
This said, of the 20 million new jobs taken up in the recently-ended year, 92% were temporary.
And of those still unable to find work, only 55.7% are eligible to claim any kind of jobseekers' allowance or other benefits.
Government statistics show the fall in unemployment has been greater and greater every year – after 2013, a total of 147,000 had dropped off the jobseeker register, rising to 253,000 in 2014 and 354,203 in 2015, and now 390,534 for 2016.
At the end of 2015, a total of 4.1 million residents were registered as unemployed, but 12 months later, this had shrunk to 3.7 million.
Some of this is due to jobseekers simply giving up looking after years of unemployment, and not bothering to renew their registration after their benefits had expired, with many attempting to earn a crust in cash instead, and the fact that so many Spaniards have emigrated to find jobs also has a bearing on the numbers.
But the Social Security office reported a total of 17.85 million people contributing monthly payments, which is only permitted for those in jobs or self-employed.
This said, unions have warned that the government has no business patting itself on the back for this on-paper reduction in jobless figures, pointing out that although 78.4% of jobseekers were able to claim benefits in 2010, this has now shrunk to 55.7%, meaning 4.5 in 10 unemployed persons have no source of income whatsoever.
“There's no room for feeling triumphant,” says the general workers' union (UGT).
“We're seeing less and less job security, more temporary job contracts, more unwanted part-time hours, and less and less protection for those who cannot find work.”
Meanwhile, the labourers' commission (CCOO) says the unpopular labour reform of 2012 needs to be scrapped because it makes it easier and cheaper for firms to fire employees without having to state the reason, leading to an unprecedented rise in jobs lasting a typical two or three months and a high level of staff rotation.
Dole money in Spain is paid on a contributory basis: for every four months of employment, a month's jobseekers' allowance is accumulated, up to a maximum of two years, with 80% of the claimant's most recent gross salary paid for the first six months and 60% thereafter.
This system functioned perfectly until the financial crisis, since workers fired or made redundant had time to recover from the shock and search for the right job without having to worry about how they would eat and pay their mortgages in the meantime, and taking the pressure off them to accept 'any old job' which they would be totally unsuitable for – but at the same time, with the allowance being finite and having to be accumulated through employment, jobseekers never became complacent.
Since the financial crisis, however, two years has often not been long enough to find any job at all and, although employment opportunities have increased since the PP government introduced its labour reform, the vast majority of these are temporary contracts only, meaning employees are not in jobs long enough to accumulate dole money.
Without the necessary job security, workers are unable to get mortgages or make plans such as committing themselves to buying cars on hire purchase, having children, going on holiday, getting married or buying property, and low wages mean consumer spending remains limited, keeping the economy stagnant and stifling job market growth.
All of the government opposition – mostly left-wing and in the majority – wants the labour reform to be scrapped or radically improved in a bid to wipe out the culture of staff rotation and piecemeal work.