Can the liberalisation of trading hours create jobs in Spain?

The 2012/06/01 at 10:25
Valérie Demon, in Madrid

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Puerta del Sol, Madrid (A.R.R.)
A survey estimates that 20,000 jobs could be created, but small shop-owners reject liberalisation.


How can jobs be created in Spain, a country suffering from an unemployment rate of over 24%? This is a question that the government has been keen to answer in the last few months. The IE Business School, one of the country’s most reputed business schools, offers what seems to be the glimmer of a solution. The liberalisation of store opening hours, according to Professor Fernando Fernández, could create 20,000 jobs in the space of three months. On the basis that the liberalisation of opening hours is “one of the structural reforms” to carry out, the author explains that 6,500 jobs could emerge in the first year following such a change in the trade sector. Sales could progress by 2.8% in the first year. And in the two following years, the number of jobs and turnover could triple.

 

Professor Fernando Fernández points to the country’s social and economic changes to defend the opening of shops of Sundays and public holidays. The increasingly strong preference of the Spanish to associate wellbeing and entertainment (65% of Spanish people take advantage of their free time to go to shopping centres, according to a survey), an increase in the rate of women who work, the development of single-parent families and the progression of electronic commerce, are different elements that argue in favour of the extension of opening hours. Added to these is the influence of tourism. The country receives almost 60 million visitors every year. According to the survey, “this group would benefit from liberalisation that would stimulate consumption, activity and employment”. Under-25s, half of whom are unemployed in Spain, would also benefit from such a measure which would increase part-time job opportunities.

 

But not everyone agrees on the advantages of liberalisation. The Madrid region, which is shortly to completely liberalise opening hours, faces rebellion from over 35,000 small trades that have joined forces to form the Forum of Urban Trade Owners (FECUR). They believe that they have not been consulted and are scornful about possible benefits. Since 2006, the liberalisation of opening hours has been permitted in certain tourist zones in the city. But according to this forum, small trades have only registered job losses, drops in sales and closures of small shops. They point to certain statistics, for example those of the Statistical Research Centre from April 2011, indicating that 87% of Spanish people feel little inconvenienced by current store trading hours. The battle is on.

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