JNN 24 Jan 2013 Barcelona : Official data indicate that Spain’s unemployment rate hit a record high of 26.02 percent in the final quarter of 2012 as the country continues to grapple with economic problems. While the Economic Melt Down has further causing Divisions in Spain as the Catalan Region Parliament have approved the declaration of State of Sovereignty , which is the First Step towards the Independence of the Catalan Region from Spain .
Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) released the new data on Thursday. The figures indicated an increase of one percent from October’s reading of 25.02 percent.
The INE further said that the number of unemployed people in Spain soared by 187,300 to reach 5.97 million at the end of 2012.
Unemployment was especially high among Spain’s youth last year, with 60 percent of those under the age of 25 jobless.
The figures come one day after the Bank of Spain reported a worsening of the country’ recession due to budget cuts.
On Wednesday, the central bank announced that Spain’s economy contracted 1.3 percent in 2012 with the gross domestic product (GDP) falling 0.6 percent in the final quarter of 2012 compared with the previous quarter.
Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking millions of jobs with it.
The fourth-largest economy in the eurozone must lower its deficit to 4.5 percent in 2013 and 2.8 percent in 2014. Many economists, however, say those targets will be difficult to meet amid poor prospects for Spain’s economic recovery.
The Spanish government has also been sharply criticized over its austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest.
Furthermore The parliament of Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia has approved a declaration of the region’s sovereignty as a major step towards its independence from Spain.
The non-binding resolution was passed on Wednesday by 85 votes in favor, 41 against, and two abstentions, the Associated Press reported.
The declaration, which states that the people of Catalonia have a democratic right to decide on their sovereignty, sets up a potential showdown with the central government in Madrid.
Catalonia, one of the most developed regions in Spain, already enjoys a wide degree of autonomy, but the country’s economic crisis has fuelled Catalan nationalism.
Growing Catalan separatism is a huge challenge for Spain’s conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is trying to avoid getting bailed out by its European Union neighbors.
Rajoy says a referendum on secession is unconstitutional and hurts all Spaniards, who are already suffering in a recession with the unemployment rate higher than 25 percent.
The approximate 16 billion euros Catalonia pays Madrid in annual taxes is more than it gets back from the central government.
In addition, the autonomous region owes around 40 billion euros in debt, which has forced regional authorities to introduce spending cuts in healthcare and education.
Many Catalans believe their economy would be more prosperous on its own, complaining that a high portion of their taxes goes to the central government in Madrid.
Catalonia, which consists of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona, accounts for one-fifth of Spain’s economic output.
Spain’s 17 autonomous regions manage their own budgets and are responsible for health and education policies and other areas of public spending.
Battered by the global financial downturn, Spain’s economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.