Spain, the great European economy in which wages grow the least in 2022

Workers work on the construction of an apartment building in Madrid. / Reuters

The average increase per hours worked is 2.6%, compared to the community average of 4%, according to Eurostat data at the end of the second quarter

Clara Dawn

CLEAR DAWN Madrid

The unstoppable escalation of inflation continues without pushing up the wages of Spaniards. Or, at least, not with as much intensity as the main European economies. According to Eurostat data, the average increase per hour worked in Spain stands at 2.6% between April and June 2022, three tenths less than in the first quarter and well below the average of 4.1% registered in the euro zone and 4.4% in the European Union as a whole.

The data shows the loss of purchasing power that workers who have signed their collective agreements this year (or who have agreements signed in previous years, but in force in 2022) are suffering. Specifically, almost eight percentage points when compared to inflation that has been above double digits for three months (10.5% in August).

The gap with the main Spanish economies is notable. For example, in Germany, wage costs per hour worked rose by 5.5% in the period analyzed and in Italy by 3%. In France, the figure rose by 2.7%.

In all of them, however, wages continue to grow below inflation. The countries that escape this loss of purchasing power are led by Hungary, where wage costs rise by almost 15%, Bulgaria (+14.6%), while four other countries recorded increases above double digits: Lithuania ( +12.4%), Romania (+11.7%), Poland (+11.1%) and Estonia (+10.1%). The smallest increase occurred in Greece (+0.8%), with the Netherlands, Finland and Denmark as the only ones below Spain.

In this scenario, the call for an income pact between employers and unions remains a constant in recent weeks. But the representatives of the workers and the employers have kept the negotiations paralyzed since May, given the impossibility of reaching agreements on red lines for the unions, such as the inclusion of the so-called revision clauses to protect the workers from the rise in inflation.

In their last official proposal on the table, the workers' representatives opted for minimum wage increases of 3.5% for this year, 2.5% in 2023 and 2% in 2024, in addition to the aforementioned clauses. But this revision according to inflation is fully rejected by the CEOE, considering that it would generate second-round effects, as other organizations such as the Bank of Spain also warn.

In the midst of uncertainty about when and how the negotiations between the parties will resume, the Government has been firm in its support for the position of the unions. This same week, the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, asked the employers to "put their shoulders together" to promote the rise in wages and unblock collective bargaining.

For her part, the Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, has also defended the need to raise wages, hardening her tone in recent weeks by explicitly supporting possible union mobilizations.

At the ministerial meeting of Labor and Employment of the Group of 20 (G20), the vice president explained on Wednesday that in the current economic context, wages are victims and not responsible for inflation.

“We are not facing a demand crisis and, therefore, we cannot react as was done in the past, depressing two salaries. Our duty as political leaders must be that no crisis, be it health or energy or climate, derives in a social crisis, "said the vice president.

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