The Qué Rico restaurant multiplies its activity during these summer days on the Alicante promenade, four meters from the sand of San Juan beach. The trays of rice fly, the meat is made to the stone on the tables of the clients and the views of the sea, all a promise of relaxation after almost a year and a half of pandemic fatigue, are his great claim to attract diners. But the ease with which the chairs are occupied – although there are fewer foreigners, national tourism pulls the car – contrasts with an unusual lack that other establishments on the Mediterranean coast have also found: there are not enough trained personnel to cover their workforce.
During the low season, the place works with two people in the kitchen and four in the dining room who take turns. But in summer, the barrage of people makes that workforce short and they need 13 waiters and four or five at the helm. Pablo Buigues, his manager, got down to work. First he drew contacts, then he placed advertisements on the radio, on social networks, on his website, on the Milanuncios classifieds website and on the Infojobs job portal. “Our surprise was that while other years with a week of advertisements we had a lot of interviews, this year there has been little response, and those who came had little qualification or had just started in the hospitality industry,” he says.
Similar problems have been detected in Almería, Murcia and Castellón, but also in inland areas such as Castilla y León, where the regional government will train 3,500 people to make up for the lack of waiters. The shortage of suitable candidates may come as a surprise in the midst of a crisis that has destroyed so many jobs and with unemployment still not recovering to its pre-pandemic levels.
José María Rubiales, president of the Association of Cafes, Bars and Related of the Region of Murcia, detects a certain flight from the hospitality industry by workers tired of being in ERTE and the instability associated with opening and closing the sector due to restrictions . “We have many cases of professionals who have been leaving restaurants during the pandemic. There is no such pool of workers from other years. Many fathers and mothers have looked for other economic sectors that do work 100%, ”he says. Among the new destinations to which he is aware that some of them have been moved, he cites large transport companies or the new Amazon logistics center in the area.
Francisco Javier Blasco, director of the Adecco Group Institute, agrees. “In Murcia, sectors such as agriculture or some subsectors of the industry have had an almost sustained activity since the beginning of the pandemic and the frequent outbreaks and confinements have meant that, until a certain normality is achieved, return to the hospitality sector or the trade entails the risk of losing one’s job or entering ERTE ”.
The Infojobs job portal has about 11,100 vacancies in the Tourism and Catering category, 40% more than in May. One of its spokesmen sees possible that given the greater fragility of the sector “there is a greater movement of professionals towards other safer sectors at this time.”
Both Buigues and Rubiales explain that the problem is not in the most inexperienced workforce. The student who jumps into the sector during the holidays to get a few euros is still there, but there are other needs. “Many people leave the hospitality industry because we have a reputation for making long-hour contracts without paying overtime,” says Buigues. “It is undervalued. A very frequent comment is that if you are a waiter it is that you have not studied, but we look for people who have studied this, hospitality: how to clean fish, how to serve wine … That profile, which gives you a point extra, we have not found it and in the end we have selected those who had the best attitude and dominated the tray ”. The person in charge of Qué Rico also attributes it to the fact that some prefer not to leave the ERTE without being guaranteed a longer stay in the company. “If I only go out for two months, you annoy me,” he assures that they tell him.
The issue of the shortage has reached the ears of the unions. Omar Rodríguez, head of Hospitality at UGT, blames it on the underground economy that exists in the sector and sometimes insufficient salaries. “The pandemic has brought to light that people need to have the legal hours they work in order to have subsidies. And on the other hand, the general thing is that the offers are far below the needs ”. Rodríguez is cautious in the face of this supposed lack. “23 out of 100 jobs have been destroyed in the tourism sector. It is possible that some have looked for other possibilities, but I do not believe that all these people do not want to work ”.
Chema Martínez, general secretary of the services division of the Workers’ Commissions union, recognizes that the stoppage in the hospitality industry has generated changes in occupation. “It has opened everything at once and the locals have found that people who were available every year, this year are not. Many workers traveled to the coast and this year they did not go because they did not know if they were going to open and they have made a living in other professions ”, he points out. However, he makes a qualification: “The fact that people are not found has a lot to do with what they pay, especially in Murcia, where they pay 300 euros less per month than in Alicante because the sector agreement has been blocked for 13 years.”
Rubiales, from the Murcian hotelier association, counterattacks: “The last salary increase was in 2018, and nobody pays only the minimum wage. I welcome the unions after a year and a half without knowing anything about them ”. For Rubiales, the solution is to promote training plans. But by this summer it is too late. The summer bustle is not the best time to pause and teach newcomers.
Waiting for a new builder boom
According to a report by Adecco, despite the 3.4 million unemployed in Spain, about 9% of vacancies remain unfilled. And eight out of ten companies acknowledge having difficulties when it comes to finding talent, a percentage that according to this text has shot up more than 30 points in the last five years. Among the most demanded he cites the positions of welder, maintenance technician, milling machine or turner.
The technology sector is among those that, according to unions and job portals, have a structural lack of workers. In Infojobs, 347 offers of digital profiles were left uncovered in June, and with the EU placing digitization as one of its great investment priorities for the coming years along with the green economy, everything points to the demand for professionals specialized in technology information and communication (ICT) can grow.
They also hope to take advantage of that European manna in the construction sector. For Pedro Fernández Alén, president of the National Construction Confederation, the sector needs to gain weight between now and the end of the year from the current 1.3 million employees to two million, 700,000 more workers. Not only to meet the growing demand for rehabilitation and the classic works of a lifetime, but to help build all the green infrastructure that Spain will need from wind or photovoltaic plants.
According to their perception, there are young people who have thrown in the towel when looking for work who could have a niche in the sector if they decide to train. “Many young people are staying home with the game console when there is a very good future in construction. The construction industry has been demonized and it is not just brick, sand and wheelbarrow. It is also sustainability, new ways of building, energy … ”, he defends. Among the positions where there are opportunities, he cites those of bricklayer, formworker, construction manager and expert in renewables.
Mario Moscoso has been in the business for 19 of his 37 years through the company Construcciones y Reformas Moscoso, based in Galicia. He says he has more work than he can handle. “We are in a good time. Everyone is doing works on the issue of covid: terraces, porches and a lot of new housing ”. Moscoso employs eight workers on average, but when he has tried to recruit in the employment services or training cycles, he has not found the qualification he needs. Given the lack of trained personnel, he rejects 40% of the jobs that are demanded of him. “After the 2008 crisis, parents do not encourage their children to take courses of this type. Today I am taking novice people and teaching them to work. The solution is that there are more training courses and that young people know that in this union they can earn a lot of money. A person who knows about the union and is on his own is going to have a lot of work and a very good income ”.