The number of workers in ERTE falls below 600,000 for the first time since the state of alarm was decreed
Construction workers, on May 5 at a construction site in Toledo.EFE

Progress in the vaccination process and the relaxation of restrictions following the fall of the state of alarm are making themselves felt in the labor market. Although the overcoming of the pandemic and the mess it has caused in the economy is still far from being overcome, there are signs of improvement. Among them the latest data about the number of workers protected by a temporary employment regulation file (ERTE): for the first time in the last thirteen months there are already less than 600,000.

This has been evidenced by the records published this Friday by the Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration. On May 11, 598,729 workers were counted in ERTE, the lowest number during the pandemic period. The true dimension of this amount (in terms of its decrease) is observed when comparing the highest levels that were reached during the harshest months of the covid-19 crisis. On April 24, 2020, more than three million workers were suspended (3,617,205), a record number that was reached with a progressive (and spectacular) increase that began on the day of the declaration of the state of alarm, the 14 March, when from the 114,110 that existed the day before, it went to 1,093,898.

The air that ERTEs have breathed into companies and their workers has been decisive in containing the increase in unemployment – currently there are 3,910,628 unemployed people -, among other reasons why those who find themselves in this situation do not count as unemployed. However, the model used by the Government to extend its validity in the medium term has always been questioned by unions and employers, who consider that it feeds the “uncertainty” of employers and workers.

The ERTEs are extended until September 30, despite the fact that the Executive is working to extend them again, although there are tensions in the design of their conditions. While from Labor they advocate maintaining their current condition, from the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Social Security they intend to establish mechanisms that encourage the reinstatement of suspended workers. Reyes Marto, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, assured this morning during a meeting in the run-up to the International Tourism Fair (Fitur) that the ERTE “will be maintained until the tourism sector reactivates”, further even September if necessary. This Friday, all the parties will meet again, although forecasts indicate that a decision will not yet be made on the matter.

Madrid and Barcelona, ​​leaders

According to Social Security data, of the 598,729 workers in ERTE associated with covid-19, 418,759 – 70% of the total – were in these modalities with exemptions to Social Security contributions. Specifically, 19,696 people were covered by an ERTE of impediment, another 153,489 to an ERTE of limitation and another 245,574 to an ERTE of ultra-protected sectors and their value chain. In these three modalities, exemptions are established in the Social Security contributions that range between 75% and 100%. Outside of these modalities, and without exemptions, there were another 179,970 people in ERTE for force majeure or for economic, technical, organizational and production reasons (ETOP).

By activity, food and beverage services is the one with the most workers in ERTE, with 178,465, mainly in one of limitation (93,283), followed by accommodation services, with 100,399, especially by employees in companies in ultra-protected sectors (88.109). It is followed by retail trade (46,202), wholesale trade (31,239), travel agencies (22,803), sports, recreational and entertainment activities (21,961).

By regions, Barcelona and Madrid, with 99,585 and 92,159, are the provinces with the most workers in ERTE, followed by Las Palmas, with 47,687, and the Balearic Islands, with 27,809. Of the total number of employees in each of them, Las Palmas is the province with the most workers in ERTE (14.44% of its affiliates), followed by Santa Cruz de Tenerife, with 11.53%, and the Balearic Islands, with a 8.13%. Ciudad Real and Guadalajara are, on the contrary, the provinces that have fewer workers in these mechanisms, with 1.83% and 1.88% of the total.

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