Pensions keep desperate Spanish families afloat

The National, 19 October 2012

In a community hall in one of Madrid’s most impoverished districts, a group of grandmothers share their stories of how Spain‘s economic crisis has turned their pensions into a lifeline for entire families.

The recession, which has ravaged much of Europe, has destroyed the fundamental hope of those who built neighbourhoods such as Orcasitas out of nothing – that they could give their children opportunities they never had.

“My son is a builder but he’s been unemployed since January,” said Concha Sanchez, a 67-year-old retired secretary. “He gets unemployment welfare, but he has a disabled son and between his mortgage payments and the cost of care, he cannot afford to live.

“The family survives off my pension. I buy the nappies and medicine for the baby.”

Another woman speaks up. Her 59-year-old brother – a lorry driver for a construction firm – has not been paid for over a year and is now owed €50,000 (Dh240,000) in back pay and expenses, most of it from local government jobs. “He has three sons and cannot afford to eat,” said Manoli Sanchez, 63. “He’s still working and lawyers are trying to get the money, but there are 50 other people in the same position.

“I keep the family going with my pension. It is the same for all of us – we are all giving money to the next generation.”

The women nod in agreement. Each has a similar story to tell – of entire generations of people out of work, of sons and daughters going unpaid for months at a time.

Read the rest here…

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