Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
26 May 2015
Dear Minister Báñez, querida Fátima; Dear Ambassadors and colleagues,
It is an honour to welcome Spanish Minister of Employment and Social Security Fátima Báñez to the OECD Council. During the past four years we have enjoyed a formidable collaboration with the government led by President Rajoy, supporting his extraordinary reform efforts against a particularly difficult context. We worked with Spain to help reignite growth and competitiveness, put public finances back in track and create opportunities for everyone through better education and skills.
26 May 2015 - OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with Fátima Báñez, Spanish Minister of Employment and Social Security at OECD Headquarters, Paris, France.
This collaboration has been particularly fruitful in the area of labour market reform, precisely the main challenge of the Spanish economy following the bitter impact of the crisis. This owes a lot to Fátima Báñez, in whom we have always found an enthusiastic interlocutor on how the OECD could help address the daunting challenge that Spain was facing.
Minister Báñez took office in December 2011, at a time when the Spanish unemployment rate had quickly jumped to more than 23% from just 9% four years earlier, when the crisis began. Eighteen months later the trend seemed unstoppable and unemployment had reached 26%. The brunt of the recession was particularly hard on youth, many of whom lost their temporary jobs and became unemployed.
Since the first day, the government did not hesitate to undertake decisive action, which the Minister will discuss further. In particular, it approved the landmark 2012 Labour Market Reform, which among other measures reformed collective bargaining with the objective of restoring competitiveness and providing firms with instrument of external flexibility as an alternative to job destruction. It also reformed dismissal regulations with the aim of making hiring on open-ended contracts more attractive.
The Minister was not only courageous in implementing these reforms. She also asked for an independent assessment of their effectiveness by the OECD. And we responded positively to the challenge by carrying out a preliminary evaluation on labour market outcomes, which Stefano delivered in Madrid in December 2013.
It was a difficult period, with negative growth, persistently high unemployment and mounting social pressure. But we demonstrated in our study that, despite the difficult macroeconomic conditions, the reforms had already contributed to the creation of more open-ended jobs one year after their introduction. The seeds had been planted, and once growth resumed in 2014 it was even more evident that the reforms were delivering: they allowed creating jobs at a lower threshold of growth.
Today we can say that over 434,000 jobs were created in Spain in 2014, and more than 600,000 are expected to be created in 2015. Today, one out of every two new jobs in the Eurozone is created in Spain. Minister: We stood by you in the difficult times – and we proved right!
The Minister is here today to tell us more about her experience, also with regard to the broader area of social security and pensions which also fall under her portfolio. But the important lesson that I would like to stress before yielding her the floor is precisely the importance of standing by our members when we know that their policies point in the right direction and they need time to see the results. Reforms need time to pay off, and the OECD can help support a country’s momentum for change through independent, expert assessments like the one we undertook on the 2012 Labour Market Reform.
Dear Minister: As you know we are not out of the woods yet. Much remains to be done to solve the secular problems of Spain with regard to unemployment and labour market segmentation. We also need to ensure that the nascent recovery does not leave anyone behind in terms of social protection.
We are proud to continue working with you, particularly in the field of activation policies, which can better connect people with jobs. We look forward to continuing this collaboration, including helping Spain’s regions to improve the effectiveness of their employment and training programmes, drawing upon good practice in other countries that are today around this table. And we are very enthusiastic about the Skills Strategy that we will be presenting in Madrid in July, as we have done for other member countries present here.
It is a pleasure to have you here today, “en ésta su casa”, and we are eager to learn more about your experience and how the OECD can continue supporting you.
Querida Fátima, the floor is yours.