Valencia is in its week of fiestas at the moment called Fallas. Here in Spain we don’t bother with a bank holiday on a Monday, if a holiday is there to be enjoyed then it has to occupy a much longer time period, think about the upcoming Feria de Abril in Sevilla, last week’s Carnival in the Canary Islands, the Magdalena in Castellon in the next couple of weeks and a whole host of others that exist in every small town, village and large city in Spain. They all span almost a whole week.
I have said before and will say it again, Spain would have a much larger economy if it could be bothered to actually try. December is the perfect example as the majority of the month involves some form of holiday. The summer traditionally was a time for rest as the temperature got too hot and from that comes the Spanish tradition of closing down businesses for a month in July or August or in the most extreme cases for the whole two month period.
Look at it from the other point of view though. I noticed this when I visited a seaside town to the North of Valencia in January. Everything was closed.
The shops actually open for the three month period encompassing the 15th of June to the 15th of September, some may actually open for four months instead by doing the whole of June and September.
They need to make their money for the year in those three or four months though!
They are still paying out for the shopfront rental, utilities minimum payments and council taxes during the eight months they are not open. Can you business survice under those conditions? Well there are some reasons they may be able to.
I was actually amazed by the seasonality of the Spanish working calendar when I first came here until I discovered the miracle of “pluriempleo” and contracts that are “Fijo Descontinuo” and this allows businesses to operate when seasonality is high.
Firstly Pluriempleo. This is having more than one job. Usually it is one in the morning and one in the afternoon and possibly another in the evening. It is forbidden for “Funcionarios”, civil servants, to have more than one job but many take no notice of course and as their working days often end at 2pm many civil servants take casual work in the evening or these days start up their own little business. However Pluriempleo also works in another way thanks to the type of contract mentioned above.
A “Fijo descontinuo” contract means that you are employed for the season, whether that be for the orange picking and packing season or the holiday season and at the end of the period, maybe four months, you finish but you are guaranteed your job again next year. This type of contract has been used and abused in Spain for teachers working just nine months at academies or ten months at private schools but then having to rely on the State for unemployment benefits for the two months of summer. Now that this particular loophole has been closed up schools have been forced to give permanent contracts now if they want to keep teachers, the seasonal jobs remain in hostelery and agriculture and many people travel around the country from harvest to harvest and seaside town to seaside town permanently employed but never with a fixed abode.
In a further post we will be looking at the contract system in Spain in greater depth as there is too much unrelated to this post to consider. However the two types of work mentioned come directly out of the fiestas and working calendar in Spain.
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