surinenglish

Mind the gap

The recent wealth-mapping of Spain carried out by the country's National Statistics Institute (INE) revealed few surprises: as is normally the case, the most affluent areas are all in or around Madrid and Barcelona, while the poorest are in the south. What is worthy of note, though, is how large the discrepancy between the rich and poor in Spain is, and just how many of the poorest regions are here in Andalucía. Lurking behind the region's stunning landscapes and life-affirming "alegría" is a big problem with unemployment - an issue that should be a top priority for both local administrations and the incoming national government.

The INE project found that ten of Spain's richest neighbourhoods are in the Madrid region. Most affluent of all is the capital's "barrio" of El Viso, where the average per capita annual income is €42,819. By contrast, Andalucía is home to Spain's poorest neighbourhood - Polígono Sur in Seville, where that figure plummets to €4,897. In other words, the income difference between Spain's wealthiest and poorest "barrios" is a hefty €37,922. The same trend is present in distribution of wealth by city or town, too: the richest are all found within the boundaries of a triangle marked by Madrid, Barcelona and the Basque Country, while nine of Spain's ten poorest cities are here in Andalucía.

Reducing the extent of these problematic divides has to be a priority for both municipal administrations and the next national government, once it's installed. It'll be a complex task, but there is clearly one area that is in urgent need of attention: unemployment. Research presented last year by Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, showed that Spain is home to five of the worst affected areas in Europe when it comes to joblessness, Andalucía being one of them. This year's data shows that little has changed in that respect: the three highest unemployment rates in Spain are in the Andalusian municipalities of Linares (32.8%), La Línea de la Concepción (29.9% and Sanlúcar de Barrameda (29%).

It was a flagship policy of Mariano Rajoy's former conservative government to reduce Spain's unemployment levels by creating half a million new jobs a year. Rajoy adhered to that target, but the latest research shows that it hasn't helped to improve things in the poorest parts of the country. This was largely because many of the new jobs were temporary positions, either not lasting long enough or not paying enough to really improve households' prosperity.

It should be an urgent priority of Pedro Sánchez's and of the PP-Ciudadanos-led administration here in Andalucía to work on a more durable solution. That, in turn, will help this beautiful part of Spain haul itself up from the bottom of the country's regional wealth rankings.