Spain is set to extend the furlough scheme known as ERTE (Expediente de Regulación Temporal de Empleo) after the government and labour unions came to an agreement on Thursday.
The scheme which was implemented to mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and was due to end on June 30. However, this will now be extended for a further three months until September 30.
It is believed that the sectors which were impacted the hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic such as hospitality will receive the most support, although other industries which are unable to resume normal activities will also be included.
More than 3.4 million of Spain’s workers have been receiving financial aid via the scheme, however, the number of people receiving support has started to fall since the country began to ease the lockdown measures.
Like other countries, Spain has been heavily impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic with over 28,000 deaths and 250,000 infections.
The economy has also taken a huge hit with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reporting on Wednesday that the country will be one of the worst affected with a potential slump of 12.8% in 2020. However, the government predicts a reduced fall of 9.2%.
Including unemployment benefits, the scheme cost the government over 5 billion Euros in May alone. With the total amount expected to reach over 11 billion Euros to cover payments between March and September.
The ministry said, “Measures to protect workers and businesses will be adapted to the current context in order to continue supporting the most affected sectors”.
It is thought that the extension to the ERTE scheme will be approved at a cabinet meeting on Friday.
Congress Approves ‘New Normality’ Rules
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Spain’s Congress approved a new government decree which lays out the rules of the country’s ‘new normality’ following the lockdown which began in March and has only recently seen a phased de-escalation.
The decree which was introduced by the PSOE and Unidas Podemos coalition was backed by the Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos and Basque Nationalist Party by a total of 265 votes. However, far-right party Vox, the far-left Basque party EH Bildu, and the Catalan separatists of Together for Catalonia and Catalan Republican Left (ERC) voted against the new measures.
The safety measures laid out by the decree are intended to avoid a new wave of infections and were defended by Health Minister, Salvador Illa.
The new measures will enforce the mandatory use of face masks within confined or open spaces where keeping a social distance of 1.5 metres is not possible. Also stipulated within the decree will be contingency plans in case of a second wave including further reinforcement of primary healthcare services.