Ángel Alcaraz (47 years old) earned a gross base salary of 13,800 euros a year in 2010 (about 912 a month) as a receptionist at a hotel in Murcia. Then the minimum wage was 7,200 euros a year. He has been paid practically the same since then (with a pyrrhic monthly increase of 50 euros in 2017), while the minimum wage has risen to 14,000 per year. “It is very sad that your salary is updated so little that it ends up reaching the minimum wage. It is that you cannot charge less. It makes you feel as if your training, your dedication, your seniority are worthless ”, he explains. Alcaraz’s salary has not contracted, but it is worth much less than when he signed his contract. The blow of the rise in prices has overwhelmed it in the last two years – they rebounded 3.1% in 2021 and 8.4% in 2022. “There are many basic things, which are not whims or privileges, that people in this situation have to do without even if we have a job,” he adds.
Spain is one of the OECD countries in which purchasing power has fallen the most due to the inflationary crisis. This body estimated in September that the purchasing power of Spaniards would decrease by 4.5% in 2022, only in a better position than Greece (6.9%). The scenario looks worse if we take as a reference how much wages governed by agreement grew throughout the year (2.78%) in Spain and how much inflation (8.4%, the highest since 1986), with a lag six points. In addition, the IMF calculates that in 2023 the CPI will be around 3.8%. This hurricane reaches Spain with an average salary, according to INE data for 2021, of 2,086 euros gross per month (about 1,670 euros net), 2.4% more than in 2020.
Thus, for most workers, 2022 has meant a scratch on their payroll. Those who have suffered the worst blow, according to the statistics of agreements, are 239,989 employees whose salaries did not grow one iota throughout the year. And in reality they are more, since these data reflect the situation of nine million workers, when the employed in Spain are more than double.
Among those workers with frozen wages is Cristina (fictitious name), a 49-year-old from Granada. “Before, I used to buy beef and I can’t afford it anymore,” says this cleaner, who earns about 650 euros a month. “It was already difficult for me to make ends meet, with two girls and so little income, but after all these years it is impossible for me. If my mother didn’t pay me for the apartment, I don’t know what I would do”. She has asked her boss to raise her salary, but she has ignored it. “When I tell her to increase it even a little to compensate for the increase in diesel oil, she tells me to buy a motorcycle or a scooter.” In addition, she does not contribute for all the hours she works and lives day by day the pressure of not losing some of the neighborhood communities that she cleans, something that sometimes happens and temporarily reduces her meager salary.
People like Cristina are the main victims of the rise in prices in recent years: the lower the salary, the more portion of it is dedicated to basic necessities, precisely the ones that have risen the most. But the loss of purchasing power does not only affect people with the worst economic outlook. With more income, the impact is less dramatic, it does not imply giving up food or energy, but it also “undermines” these workers. “It is that in the end it is as if they lowered your salary. In my house we do not have problems because there is another source of income, but not updating your salary even a little ends up burning you. If I were alone, I wouldn’t have enough to pay the bills”, explains Lorena (invented name), a 46-year-old translator from Madrid. She has not raised her salary of 22,000 gross euros a year since 2019. The company says that the accounts are not coming out: “We are a sector that is not supposed to be doing well. Little is charged and, furthermore, they say that customers are paying less and less”.
Cristina’s shadow with the brush she works with, this Thursday in Granada. Fermín Rodríguez
Other companies that do experience a good economic situation do not increase salaries either. “I know they could raise our salary. There will be companies that have been billing less in recent years, but mine has more clients, more work”, considers Iria López, a 32-year-old from Madrid. Teresa (fictitious name), a 36-year-old interface designer with the same salary since 2018, pronounces herself along the same lines: “I know they are doing very well. They knew how to move very well during the pandemic and are in a good position, but nothing goes up to us ”. The Bank of Spain confirms that in the first six months of 2022 the aggregate turnover of companies grew at a very high rate: 48.3% compared to the same period of the previous year, compared to 12.6% registered one year before. Along the same lines, a recent study by CC OO points out that in the third quarter of 2022 corporate profit margins represented 10.4% of sales for the entire Spanish economy, the highest level since 2014. In some In some cases, such as Nacho López (43 years old) from Madrid, there have been no increases in 2021 or 2022, but there is a commitment for 2023: “It would have been better if it could be earlier, but we have negotiated it like this. We are going to have an increase of around 6%”, celebrates this worker in the automotive sector.
“Honestly,” continues Iria, “I don’t like not getting a raise. You feel like you’re the dumbest one in the place. The first thing that crosses my mind is that I am working and I am not being rewarded. I don’t want to work.” This feeling is shared by almost all those interviewed for this report. Teresa’s anger grows because she is no longer allowed to telework: “In addition to not raising our salary, they have made us return to the office, which is an extra cost that we have been saving.”
Another idea in which various interviewees abound is that the increases they claim are not increases as such. Simply, they would serve not to lose purchasing power. “They cut your salary, so obviously you don’t work the same. You arrive on time and you comply, but before, maybe you stayed a while longer to lend a hand and now you don’t. It is a situation that I do not wish on anyone, it is very complicated, ”says Antonio Expósito, a Murcian private health worker. He earns 1,089 euros net per month in 14 payments since 2010. “Then it was a good salary, but that is over. I no longer go out with the family to eat out, the gifts from Kings have been just and necessary, you renew the girls’ clothes less… ”, he protests.
Esther (fictitious name) is a 36-year-old clerk who has earned around 1,400 euros net per month since 2015. She says she feels in “no man’s land”. In other words, she does not earn so much that inflation does not affect her materially, but she does not have a salary so low as to receive direct public aid. “Last year I had to leave the house that I shared with my ex-partner. I tried to buy something, but they wouldn’t give me a mortgage because they didn’t think I had enough income. I couldn’t afford a rent of 800 euros either, so I asked for a social rent at my town hall. They told me that I had no right to do so for charging more than 1,000 euros. Straight up, I asked them what were I and my two daughters supposed to do, go under a bridge.” She now lives at the home of her new partner. “Until now, I had never discussed supermarket sales with my co-workers.”
Pascual Soriano (52 years old) has a similar perception to Esther’s: “It is increasingly difficult for me to make ends meet. On the 15th you are already looking at the bank account. But, at the same time, my eldest son has been denied a scholarship. I have the right salary to not qualify for aid, but I can’t cover the expenses. Every day we are poorer, we limit ourselves to surviving”, explains this hotel worker in Albacete, who earns about 1,325 euros net per month in 12 payments.
Some of these workers, like Esther, have tried to find another job without success. “I’ve been watching for about a year and a bit, not very active but sending some CVs and keeping an eye on the job portals. I have not found significant increases and if something grows, they do not give me the possibility to reconcile how I can do it in my company”. Lorena also intends to change jobs, like many of her colleagues: “For a year and a half I have noticed that many people have left or want to leave. I am not going on my own because I want to collect unemployment, and also I am not at an age (46 years) to stop contributing ”. “Of the workers I started with, only half remain. The rest have gone to other sectors where they pay better or at least have better hours”, adds Ángel, the receptionist from Murcia, who adds a piece of advice to companies: “Please treat their workers better”.
How much should my salary have grown?
One of the most useful tools of the National Institute of Statistics is its website to update income. This page allows you to calculate how much a salary should have increased in a given period in order not to lose purchasing power. For example, if someone earned 25,000 euros a year in December 2015, their remuneration should grow by 17.3%, up to 29,325 euros. You can check how much your income should have grown to avoid a devaluation by clicking here.
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