Saturday 15 Jun 2024

Spain jobs crisis spawns entrepreneurs

AFP | FEBRUARY 16, 2013, 11:46 AM IST

Two years after being laid off from her job as a health andsafety consultant, Ana Luis has found a new, quite different occupation.

The blue-eyed, blonde-haired 46-year-old stands busy in thewindow of her very own dress shop in Valladolid, northeastern Spain, deftlyfixing clothes on a dummy.

For Ana, it was a childhood dream come true -- one born ofthe nightmare of redundancy.

Left jobless like millions of others in Spain's recession,she did what many are also doing, for want of an alternative: launched her ownbusiness.

“I had a choice: stay sitting at home and do nothing, orthrow myself into a project that I like,” she says.

She opened the store less than four months ago using part ofher redundancy pay and savings -- a total investment of 30,000 euros ($40,000).

She is one of a wave of Spaniards trying to create jobs forthemselves in the recession that has driven the unemployment rate above 26percent.

The crisis sparked by the collapse of Spain’s building boomhad wiped out a lot of self-employed entrepreneurs: 625,000 between 2008 and2011, says Lorenzo Amor, president of the small entrepreneurs’ association ATA.

But in 2012, as the unemployment rate climbed to recordhighs, their number grew for the first time in the five-year crisis, with53,000 new registered self-employed, he says, citing government figures.

These entrepreneurs created 72,000 jobs, he added -- justabout the only sector to do generate any.

“For the next few months it is going to be easier to createyour own job than to find one,” Amor said.

“In Spain, every hour 67 people register as self-employed.Unfortunately, half of those don't manage to keep their business running formore than three years.”

Despite everything, they are having a go.

In a trendy district of central Madrid, serving staff bustleat the coffee machine in “La Bicicleta”, a novel bicycle-friendly cafe wherecyclists can park their bikes.

Its tables are crammed with customers even though the cafeonly opened days ago, under the management of Tamara Marques, 29, and QuiqueArias, 35.

“I had other job plans. I wanted to be an air trafficcontroller. But the labour market is nothing like it was,” said Tamara.

“The way the economy is, I prefer to invest in something Ireally like and which will bear fruit, rather than wait for the government todo something for me.”

She and Quique launched their plan in late 2011 and managedto open their cafe, with its rough industrial-style decor and deliberatelyshabby armchairs, more than a year later.

They raised the 100,000 euros they needed through a rarebank loan and help from their families -- no thanks, they say, to Spanishbureaucracy.

“We’re not even talking about getting subsidies or making iteasier to get a loan,” says Quique. “We’re talking about much simpler things,like just getting the paperwork done.”

Among its various emergency reforms, the conservativegovernment says it is working on a law to cut the red tape for people launchingtheir own businesses.

Ana, Tamara and Quique say they are covering their costs butrelying on their families to live.

Yet theirs are rare tales of hope in a crisis that aidgroups has thrown millions into poverty.

"I think there is a growing dynamism. We are seeingjust the tip of the iceberg," says Javier Sanz, director of an MBAprogramme at Madrid's Complutense University.

"In the next five years people are going to realisemore and more that to find the perfect job they are going to have to make oneup. For that you need to be an entrepreneur."

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