Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Love in Spain, teacher’s strikes, 15 year jobless high in Spain, a gay retirement home…

My article about buying a bank held property gets a mention in this great overview of the week by Nick Snelling. Have a read.

Love in Spain, teacher’s strikes, 15 year jobless high in Spain, a gay retirement home…

Love in Spain


The past week in Spain has seen the wedding of the elderly Duchess of Alba, unemployment in Spain reach a 15 year high and a strike by Spanish teachers.  Meanwhile, although the majority of Spaniards are Catholic, 57% (a figure rising annually) do not go to church regularly.  Elsewhere, a residential home is being constructed for gay Spaniards and El Hierro in the Canary Islands has just suffered its biggest earthquake (4.3 on the Richter scale) since July – thus getting ever closer to the potential explosion of its volcano.

Of course, the ‘fun’ news has been about the 85 year old Duchess of Alba’s marriage (her third), this time to a civil servant 24 years younger than herself.  Whilst this may not be earth shattering news on its own account it has delighted the Spanish who love celebrity gossip – after all Hello magazine came from Spain and Spanish TV is full of seemingly endless programmes about celebrity life.

Well, when it comes to celebrity in Spain, the Duchess of Alba is right up ‘there’, together with being something of an eccentric in her own right.  However, what makes her really special is that she is the scion of Spain’s most aristocratic dynasties.

In fact, the Duchess of Alba has more aristocratic titles than anyone else in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records – including being a Duchess 7 times, a Marchioness 17 times and a Countess 23 times.  Curiously she is even the Baroness of Bosworth!  To cap it all, she is also a Grandee which is the highest aristocratic title in Spain and means that the king addresses her as ‘Cousin’ (Primo).  For the likes of you and me (just in case you happen to bump into her), she would expect to be called ‘Most Excellent Lady’ or ‘Your Excellency’.

Predictably, the Duchess of Alba has a personal name to suit her elevated position and this is: Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva – although how she learnt that as a very small child is mystifying!

Needless to say, the Duchess of Alba has massive wealth and it is said that she could drive from one end of Spain to another without ever leaving her land.  This is probably apocryphal but it may reassure you that she is a lady of means, not some impoverished aristocrat with great names and titles – but a bit down on her luck

Less fortunate, of course, are those without jobs in Spain (some 4.2 million).  Indeed, unemployment in Spain for September hit a 15 year high for that month – although why anyone is surprised escapes me altogether.   The Spanish economy shows no signs of recovery that I have seen and is unlikely to do so (even in terms of sentiment) until the Eurozone crisis is resolved and the General Election in Spain has been decided (20th November 2011).

Of course, September is always going to be a bad month for data about jobs in Spain because it is the end of the tourist season and many temporary jobs in Spain are lost naturally along with the masses of visitors who come to the country for their summer holidays.  Unfortunately, the data for employment in Spain has been exacerbated this year by the national and (finally!) Regional austerity cuts which are now being felt in earnest.  Sadly, this is probably the beginning of state job cuts in Spain rather than any end…

During last week the teachers went on strike in Spain, with Madrid being particularly militant (some 60% – 70% went on strike there).  The teachers are complaining about the longer working hours that are being imposed upon them and the sacking of substitute teachers.  As I have written before, it is a little difficult to feel a great deal of sympathy for teachers and thereby for this strike in Spain.  Their working hours are less than onerous; the vast majority have their jobs for life and are far better off than any of the unemployed – and many people in the private sector.

Sadly, when it comes to property in Spain the news, overall, remains gloomy.   The number of mortgages in Spain set up in June was an incredible 42.4% lower than for the same month in Spain last year (2010) and Spanish house sales in Q1 were 40.8% lower than for Q1 in 2010.  Some recovery on this was made in Q2 but the 2011 results are not looking too good.

The big hope from the government is that the drop from 6% to 4% on the purchase tax of new properties will help to revitalise sales of new Spanish property.  Frankly, it is open to question whether this will make any significant difference and I would contend that purchase tax in Spain should also have been dropped on re-sale properties as well.

Meanwhile, it was reported today that Santander are going to place some 29,000 Spanish properties onto the Spanish property market this week.  This is a significant amount and will do little to secure the prices of other houses for sale in Spain.

On the face of it, of course, the 29,000 properties from Santander appear like good news for buyers!  However, as I have written before (and see this article by Graham Hunt), you need to be careful when buying a Spanish property from a Spanish bank.  Everything is not always quite as it seems and the words ‘bank repossession’ do not, by any means, always equate to ‘bargain’.

On social matters, the myth that Spain is a bulwark of Catholicism is being confirmed.  Although the vast majority of Spaniards (73%) are Catholic, the vast majority of them do not go to church regularly, according to the Centre for Sociological Investigations (CIS).  Indeed, fewer than 16% claim to go to Mass every week, knowledge of which would have General Franco ‘rolling in his grave’.  In his day, regular church going was close to being mandatory.  In fact, Franco would probably be appalled by the fact that Spain, to its credit, is now one of the most liberal states in the world.

No doubt General Franco would be even more distressed to learn that there are now plans afoot to build, on the outskirts of Madrid, the country’s first gay and lesbian retirement home.  This sounds like a good idea and a sound business prospect.  I am only a little surprised it has not been done before…

A week in Spain by Nick Snelling – Culture Spain

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