Spain extends benefits for long-term jobless

Madrid, Jan 26 (IANS/EFE) Spain's conservative government Friday approved an extension of a financial aid program for unemployed people whose eligibility for standard jobless benefits has expired and who lack income to pay their bills.

Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria made the announcement to reporters, saying the measure will help ease the "dramatic" effects of unemployment.

The program, which will provide the long-term jobless up to 450 euros ($605) a month, will be prolonged until the unemployment rate falls below 20 percent.

The decision comes a day after new data showed Spain ended last year with an unemployment rate of 26.02 percent, equivalent to around 5,965,400 people out of work.

The jobless rate in Spain among people under the age of 25 and among foreigners has skyrocketed and finished last year at 55.1 percent and 36.53 percent, respectively.

The number of households in which all members are unemployed rose 16.43 percent last year to 1,833,700.

Labor Minister Fatima Banez said that last February's overhaul of Spanish labor law, which made it easier for firms to hire and fire workers, has helped stem the rate of job destruction.

But the Socialist opposition and labor unions blame that overhaul for Spain's high unemployment rate.

The Spanish economy remains hampered by the fallout from the collapse of a long-building housing bubble, which left many of its banks saddled with toxic assets.




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