| MADRID, March 12
MADRID, March 12 Spain pledged 3.5 billion euros
($4.6 billion) over four years on Tuesday to easing mass
unemployment among the country's youth, as the government tries
to stem a relentless tide of layoffs and lengthening jobless
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy presented 100 different
measures including tax breaks for young freelance workers and
for companies that hire workers in their twenties.
Many of the measures, such as lower social security payments
for young self-employed workers and up-front payment of
unemployment benefits for entrepreneurs, had been announced
On Tuesday they were wrapped into a single strategy.
During five years of economic stagnation and recession,
Spain's unemployment rate has risen to 26 percent - the highest
level since the 1970s and one of the highest in the European
Union - and more than half of 18-25 year olds are out of work.
More and more young Spaniards are studying German and
English and heading abroad to find work.
Public anger is growing over austerity measures to tackle
government overspending, which have aggravated economic
problems, and over 40 billion euros in public debt spent on
rescuing banks that loaned too freely to builders during a real
estate boom that ended in 2008.
With more than 5 million people out of work, job losses have
accelerated in the first months of 2013.
Spain's 35 blue chip companies have announced more than
35,000 layoffs so far this year, compared with 18,000 layoffs by
the same companies last year, according to a report in El
Rajoy spoke to an audience of union, company and government
representatives at the Moncloa government palace.
But labour union leaders did not wait to hear the details
before expressing scepticism over the new strategy.
"If the government does not re-orient its economic policy to
make growth and jobs a priority instead of deficit cutting, the
effects of the plan will have a limited effect and the economic
recession and job destruction will continue," Spain's two
biggest union federations, CCOO and UGT said in a statement just
before Rajoy made the announcement.
Rajoy has said that any stimulus measures for the economy
and jobs will not undermine his determination to cut the budget
deficit in line with EU demands.
The government has trimmed the budget by tens of billions of
euros this year and last, cutting public sector wages and
limiting health and education spending at a time when the
economy is shrinking an estimated 1.5 percent per year.
A third of the funding for the jobs plans will come from a
European Special Fund, Rajoy said.