Data for June and July show robust growth in female employment to over nine million, more than before the pandemic. Despite the improvement, the gap with men remains
Manuela Teijeiro has managed to overcome the worst omens. In March 2020, at the age of 54, the virus put her out of work after three decades in the kitchens of Galician restaurants. She saw herself at home, sunk, while through the television window she watched in horror as the hospitality industry that had fed her all her life was also collapsing. After confinement they called her from a couple of places, but to work 15 hours a day for less pay than ever. “And I said to myself: ‘If I’ve been building other people’s businesses for 30 years, it will be bad if I can’t get mine,” he recalls from La cocina de Manuela , the home-cooked take-out establishment that has opened in A Coruña.
Like her, the 41-year-old María García from Malaga has also just rejoined the labor market. “I see this is coming back. I also perceive it in the customers and in their attitude ”, assures this woman who has been working as a waitress in a restaurant in Seville since July. Those of Teijeiro and García are just two cases that show the constant trickle of women who in recent months have rejoined the labor market.
In the last two months, the number of Spanish employed or under ERTE regime has exceeded nine million, a level not seen since before the pandemic, at the end of 2019. This evolution, experts point out, could continue if the labor market it is not shaken by new restrictions. Female affiliation to Social Security reached its record in June: 9,076,939. Last month it fell slightly, around 3,000, according to data released Tuesday by the Social Security Ministry. The abundance of female labor in service positions and facing the public, sectors that are benefiting from de-escalation and the high season of tourism, explain this boomof female employment that was already noticed in some months of 2020, but which has taken shape throughout this year.
Javier Blasco, director of the consulting firm Adecco Group Institute, sums up: “What is happening this summer is that the women’s sectors absorb more employment.” After the end of the state of alarm and the arrival of summer, there has been a strong activation of two markets with a high percentage of female workers: commerce and hospitality. To this is added that education has continued to function despite the pandemic and health has expanded staff, two sectors also mostly female.
The question is whether these occupancy figures can be maintained in the autumn. Blasco is optimistic. “The vaccination objectives should keep the hotel industry activated, which would also allow part of the temporary jobs in this sector and commerce to become indefinite.” In addition, the return of the school year always triggers the recruitment in education. In the same vein, Valentin Bote, director of the Randstad Research labor consultancy, points out: “In 2019 a historical maximum of female employment was reached, which frustrated the crisis. And as we recover, that growth trend returns, which we will continue to see in the coming months ”.
High seasonality in hospitality and commerce
In June and July, female membership grew by 5.2% and 4.8%, respectively, compared to the same months in 2020, a higher percentage than among men. However, the gender gap remains practically intact, since mostly male jobs recovered in previous months: if in July 2019 women represented 46.10% of those employed in Spain, in July 2021 they accounted for 46 , 31%. Looking back there are no big changes either: a decade ago, in July 2011, women represented 45.11% of those affiliated with Social Security.
Javier Blasco highlights this gap in labor market participation and calls for “more aggressive” active employment policies that allow reconversion to facilitate job change for those who cannot find work. “If industry, construction and technology remain in the hands of men, it is difficult for women to expand their participation in the labor market,” explains Blasco, who recalls that these sectors have a much higher pay than jobs in services .
If in the manufacturing industry the average profit per worker in 2019 was 27,600 euros, it rises to 44,300 in financial services and exceeds 52,000 in electricity and gas supply trades, all of them mostly male jobs. While education and health are around 26,000 euros per year and the hotel industry plunges to 14,500, according to the INE’s annual salary structure survey. Regarding the rate of temporary contracts , it rises to 27.7% for women compared to 22.6% for men.
The leap to creating his own business was not easy for Teijeiro. Despite the good reception of her place, she recalls with emotion the stress she had to overcome to get it going. As he watched the virus spread total uncertainty across the planet, he set out to navigate a sea of difficulties. “To start a business there are no help, only inconvenience,” he complains. He did not receive any subsidy and is waiting for a call from the Xunta for self-employed persons over 50 years of age that “has been delayed by the pandemic.” “I have two children and a mortgage and I have been in the red by investing all my savings in this,” he explains. “It has been a risk and I have had a bad time. I have spent many nights without sleep, my hair has fallen out and I even had dizziness ”.
More unemployment and more ERTE
Despite the fact that women are a minority in the labor market, in July they represented 60% of the unemployed in Spain: two million compared to 1.4 million in men. They also added 52% of the 331,486 employees at ERTE, a figure that experts once again attribute to the over-representation of women in jobs heavily affected by the pandemic. Catering and accommodation concentrate 4 out of 10 workers in temporary employment regulation file. Bote concludes: “In the hospitality industry, the presence of women is greater, while that of men is greater in sectors that have already recovered from ERTE”.
Teijeiro is convinced that so many years in the self-sacrificing hospitality sector have hardened her to resist. In La cocina de Manuela he spends endless hours, but receives the congratulations for his skill in the kitchen that he never obtained after those of the restaurants. Customers confess that they remember their mothers and grandmothers when savoring their recipes. And there are those who also tell him that he has had “a couple of eggs” to open a place in a pandemic: “I answer them that what you have to have are needs. I want to give my children studies ”.