Second anniversary of COVID-19 in Spain: lessons learned and how is Extremadura moving forward

March marks the second anniversary of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic to Europe and, in Spain, the start of the dreaded quarantines and the rise of positives cases in the country. But what is the lessons learned by Extremadura in these two years and how is the region going to tackle the problems that already present in the territory, such as depopulation, unemployment and brain drain in rural areas, that have been aggravated during this pandemic? These two years has given the regional government, relevant actors and public and private institutions enough time to analyze the effects and repercussions of the strategies and initiatives initially implemented during the first stages of the pandemic and to come up with improved solutions and new knowledge for this second-year anniversary.

If we take a look at the numbers of unemployed people by the time this article was written, we can see that even though the pandemic has deeply affected Extremadura there are some good news and practices that can be shared and implemented in other territories. Let’s take the problem of unemployment, for example. According to official figures, the direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the economy of Extremadura is estimated to be around 1066 million of euros in losses, specially affecting the sectors of international and internal commerce, tourism and car dealerships, only in 2020. If we go to a bigger picture, the Spanish economy plummeted a 10,8% during 2020 and during the year 2021 it just grew up to a 5% with an increase in the general inflation of 7,6%, something that has not been seen in the country since 1986.

Even with this unfavorable situation, thanks to the general implementation of teleworking that allowed people to return to their villages and cities instead of keep living in the major population hubs of the country and allow people in rural areas the opportunity to access a job market that was usually circumscribed to big urban areas, and to changes and reforms in the employment laws of Spain, the number of new contracts and the quality of said jobs have improved over the last two years. According to the last data collected by the Ministry of Labor and Social Economy, 11.394 people found a job during the month of February, with 22% of these contracts being permanent contracts and, if we look closely in Extremadura, from February 2021 to February 2022 there has been a decrease of 19.668 people registered as unemployed in the region.

The Government, institutions and, in general, all of the public and private sector in Extremadura has realized that even though the pandemic has negatively affected everybody, it is still an opportunity to grow and learn. By implementing new ways of working, moving forward with the digitalization and the improvement of infrastructure and connections of rural and remote areas, and by building a whole structure that offers new job opportunities with a fair pay and facilitating the balance between work and family life, Extremadura plans to maintain this growth rate, both economical and in population, that will surely have a positive effect in livelihoods of all level across the region.


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