At the time of the oil crisis of 1973, unemployment in Spain stood at just under 2.5 percent of the active population, but with the recession, the estimated one million Spanish workers in Europe began to return. This influx coincided with an increase in the active population, resulting from a "baby boom" in the 1960s, job losses in agriculture as a consequence of mechanization, and the increasing number of women entering the labour market. Official unemployment figures reached 12.4 percent in 1980, and peaked at 24.7 percent in 1994, before falling back to 22 percent in 1996, double the EU average, and the highest in Europe. Moreover, the annual average figures conceal the real scale of the problem in some sectors of society. Female unemployment in 1990, at 24 percent, was double the rate of male unemployment. Youth unemployment is even higher: in 1991, 30.5 percent of those aged between 16 and 24 were unemployed, and the figure rose to 43 percent in 1996.
   These figures do not include those working in the black economy, which some estimates calculate at a third of those officially unemployed. This is partly offset, however, by the fact that seasonal agricultural workers in Andalusia and Extremadura are not defined as unemployed, even though they often only work for three months in the year. Overall, therefore, the official figures gave a reasonably accurate picture of the true situation, and in any case clearly reflect the worsening trends in employment since 1975. Even when the underground economy is taken into account, a conservative estimate of the real rate would place it at 16 percent, still the highest in the EU.
   Job losses were further compounded by the need to restructure the economy to achieve greater competitiveness. The socialist PSOE which came to power in 1982 had promised to create 800,000 new jobs, but in the event this proved to be impracticable. The closure of the Sagunto steel works in Valencia in 1982 was an indication of what was to come. The reconversión industrial of the steel and shipbuilding industries in the Basque country has proved equally controversial. The problem of unemployment is not confined to Spain, but whereas other countries have a developed system of unemployment benefit, provision in Spain was much less comprehensive. Successive governments have reduced the cost of unemployment benefit by cutting the numbers of those entitled to receive assistance. In 1988, fewer than 30 percent of those unemployed were eligible for benefit, despite the socialists having set a target of 48 percent, which was in any case below the European average. In the wake of the general strike of December 1988, the proportion of those eligible increased, and stood at just under 70 percent in 1993, but new restrictions were introduced again in that year. School-leavers seeking their first job are not entitled to unemployment benefit. Workers who lose their jobs can claim for a maximum of six years, after which unemployment payments are replaced by a system of income support called the subsidio, amounting in 1993 to around £3,000 per annum.
   Further reading
   - Chislett, W. (1997), Spain 1997: The Central Hispano Handbook, Madrid: Central Hispano, pp. 18– 27 (a brief but clear summary, illustrated with useful graphs).
   - Heywood, P. (1995) The Government and Politics of Spain, London: Macmillan (chapter 10 is an excellent overview of the problems created by convergence with the European economy, illustrated with several useful tables).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 18 gives a clear and comprehensive account of the unemployment problem).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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