Claims Spain is “out of recession” are garbage

Spain has officially left the EU bailout fund this week, and we are getting reports that it is officially “out of recession.” So what does a country “out of recession” look like?

image: Associated Press

Hm. Maybe by “out of recession,” people mean that Spain has doled out so much recession in the past few years that it has no more to give. It’s fresh out of recession and has now replaced it with garbage. I don’t care what the official parameters defining a recession are–strikes by students and garbage collectors, an unemployment rate of over 26%, and a GDP growth rate of -1.4% last year don’t seem like evidence of Spain’s emergence from recession.

In fact, Spain’s youth unemployment rate reached an abysmal landmark in late August when it hit 56.1%. So if anyone is curious why Spaniards aren’t busting out the rioja to celebrate the end of their recession, this could have something to do with it. There have been mentions of disincentives to work, but Spain has been busy for the past two years dismantling its welfare state, and the recent protests are a reaction to this. People also have to realize that Spain is the proud inventor of “machismo,” a charming little spin on patriarchy. I cannot imagine that Spanish men are happy about not being able to fulfill their traditional role as providers for their families. It’s hard to fathom that a country that holds the matador up as an example for men would be very accepting of the dude who sits on the couch watching Betty la fea and drinking…whatever it is that Spaniards drink. Rioja?


The high expectations placed on men as fearless providers is partly responsible for the awful way unemployment is affecting Spanish society. The current generation of young people is now called the “lost generation,” and there has been a rise in cases of “youth machismo,” young Spanish men’s reaction to feeling professionally impotent.

The New York Times had a great piece on Spain yesterday that draws attention to the way youth unemployment is pulling at the fabric of Spanish society. The quote that really got to me was one from a young, educated girl who had to leave Spain to work in a stockroom in the Netherlands:

“Leaving your country should be a decision, not an obligation.”

Does this sound like someone who is taking advantage of disincentives? The next person to say that word to me is getting smacked. That article is full of highly educated youth searching frantically for a job, even if it’s as a clerk in a grocery store. This clearly illustrates that the issue is not that no one is trying to find a job–the issue is that there are no jobs.

I am extremely confused. Who decided that Spain was out of recession? A recession is defined as “a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.” Spain’s GDP has been falling for eleventy-million consecutive quarters (also known as since the beginning of 2012).

As this chart illustrates, Spain’s GDP had taken such a beating since 2008 that a recovery will take many years. But since its GDP is projected to increase by 0.1% in Q4, it is apparently out of recession now? Tell that to the PhD-holding Spaniard wading through trash to get to her job interview for a temporary position at the grocery store.


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