Spain’s jobless rely on pensioners while struggling to survive

By Ingrid Bazinet ,AFP

MADRID — After a career spent repairing trains, Francisco Marcos Gallego once thought he and his wife would end their days in comfort. Instead they are struggling to support their unemployed son and his children. “Even if it is hard, as long as I am alive, I will pay my son’s mortgage so he is not thrown out on the street,” said Francisco, 80. A retired employee of the state railway firm Renfe, he shares a two-bedroom apartment with his 82-year-old wife Maria in Vallecas, a working class neighborhood of Madrid. The couple must use their combined monthly pension of 1,300 euros (US$1,760) to help feed their son Miguel, 49, who has been out of full time work since 2009, and the teenaged children who still live with him. Still suffering the effects of the economic slump triggered by the collapse of a property boom in 2008, more and more Spanish families are relying on their retired parents to survive as their unemployment checks run out and mortgage bills pile up. Just over one in four Spanish households, 27 percent, survive thanks to the revenues of retired family members, according to Spain’s Democratic Union of Pensioners and Retirees, a lobby group. “I only have my parents. If they were not there I would be …” Miguel began, before his mother Maria completed the sentence, snapping: “Out on the street.” “Now I have to support two households. Ours and my son’s,” she added. Miguel, who is separated from the mother of his three children, worked as a machinist for 23 years until he lost his job four years ago.

After that, he was only able to find odd jobs in a country struggling with a jobless rate of 26.3 percent. But since 2011 those jobs have dried up too and he now survives on a monthly benefit of 400 euros for job seekers whose dole entitlements have expired. Every month, once this benefit money runs out, he heads to his parents’ house with his 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter to eat.