Employment minister Yolanda Díaz speaks in Congress. / EFE

I quit

The "Big Quit" finally seems to be catching on in Spain, and employment minister Yolanda Díaz sees it as a sign her reforms are working

Mark Nayler
MARK NAYLER

It might seem like an odd litmus test for the strength of a country's labour market, but the number of Spaniards jacking in their jobs is a definite sign of improvement in this respect.

Dubbed the "Big Quit" or "Great Resignation", the Covid-induced trend of leaving a position in search of better-paid or more fulfilling employment is slowly catching on in Spain - and rather than fretting about that, employment minister Yolanda Diaz could see it as a sign that her reforms are working.

Last year in Spain, 30,000 people voluntarily left their jobs, contributing to the current pool of 109,000 unfilled positions. Diaz wants those vacancies filled quickly, but maybe it's partly due to her improvement of employees' stability that the "Big Quit" is gaining traction in Spain: after all, you're more likely to give up what you already have if there's a reasonable chance of acquiring something better as a result. For Diaz, who has striven to increase quality instead of quantity within Spain's labour market, this is surely cause for celebration.

Diaz's approach is completely the opposite of that favoured by the Conservative government of Mariano Rajoy. Rajoy might have stuck to his promise to create 500,000 jobs every year, but many of these new positions wouldn't have outlasted the average Mayfly.

In a telling sign of structural improvement, however, the percentage of permanent contracts has risen each month this year; and in April, almost half of all new contracts signed were permanent, the highest such proportion on record.

It's surely no coincidence that 27% of Spaniards - perhaps lured by the prospect of more remunerative permanent contracts - are giving serious thought to quitting their jobs in 2022, according to a February survey for Infojobs. In the wider context of Spain's suddenly-improved labour market, it could be that some of those 109,000 vacancies are the dregs that no-one wants, outdated rejects destined for scrap.

Having said that, there remains a discrepancy between the amount of vacancies in Spain and the country's unemployment rate, which in 2021 was the highest in the EU for the thirteenth consecutive year. Diaz might have done a good job of raising quality rather than quantity, but her next challenge consists in tackling the latter.

In the meantime, let's hope that more and more people start walking into their bosses' offices, with a letter of notice in one hand and the middle finger of the other prominently displayed.