The Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, persists in his efforts to make it easier for sectors such as the hotel, transport or construction industry to hire more foreign labor. The minister’s latest move is to eliminate requirements so that immigrants who have been in Spain for two years in an irregular situation can obtain their papers in exchange for undergoing regulated training.
Escrivá’s team has reformulated the instructions that regulate the so-called arraigo by training, a path that was already approved last summer to encourage foreigners to train in sectors in need of labor and leave the underground economy. The new version eliminates the minimum number of hours that the courses should have, stops requiring attendance and seeks to combine training with a job. The initiative has the support of the employer, but neither the Ministry of Labor nor the unions share the approach. It has also generated tensions within the ministry itself, according to various sources consulted.
One of the keys is that to obtain a residence permit, it is enough to have “microcredentials”. Instead of the 200 hours that were required before, “short learning experiences of all educational levels” will now be worth, according to the instruction to which EL PAÍS has had access. “While before, longer and more demanding training was used, the new model will favor much faster incorporations into the labor market thanks to micro-training, the most basic modules included in the new Vocational Training Law. These respond to “a European approach recommended by the Council of the EU in June,” says the instruction. In this way, employers that demand less qualified labor could find new workers more easily. According to the INE, there are around 140,000 vacancies in industry, services and construction.
The figure of arraigo by training, which was included in the reform of the Immigration Regulations in July, has allowed nearly 12,000 immigrants to obtain their papers, according to sources from the Ministry of Migrations. The numbers are high, but Escrivá’s department believes that the measure has “more potential” and that many more people could benefit from it. “From the beginning we received observations that it was complex to meet the requirements. After some time to analyze how the measure matured, it has been seen that it can be made more flexible without compromising training”, they explain.
Critics point out, however, that the flexibility is excessive and that it distorts the initial idea of training foreigners for medium-skilled occupations and not just low-skilled ones. They also explain that such schemes, which expand the type of centers that will provide the training, do not offer “sufficient guarantees” and can open the door to fraud and the sale of titles. Some sources also question the ability of sectors such as the hotel and construction industry to influence the minister.
Escrivá must take his new instructions for consultation to the Tripartite Immigration Labor Commission, a space where the measures and forms of the minister have generated friction with unions and labor representatives for a long time. The meeting, which will be held this Wednesday, is expected to be tense: with the exception of the employers’ association, the proposal does not convince its interlocutors. Added to the criticism from the unions are the drawbacks of the Ministry of Labor, which does not share the diagnosis that there is a widespread problem of vacancies. Yolanda Díaz’s ministry defends solutions that do not focus exclusively on hiring foreign workers, but rather on improving working conditions and training.
Comisiones Obreras does not even go into the details of the new instructions and criticizes the minister’s lack of dialogue. “This is just one more step to distort social dialogue and the construction of mutual trust,” laments José Antonio Moreno, head of Migrations at CC OO. Moreno insists that the bet should be the inclusion in the labor market of the more than three million unemployed and give dignity to workers in certain sectors. UGT, for its part, does not share the approach of “minimizing the requirements”. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy general secretary of the UGT, affirms: “We are against denaturing the training and that any type of course is worth it. The training offer has to be linked to the public employment services and these have to be strengthened”. Both unions demand from the ministry a more rigorous analysis of the needs by sectors and provinces.
Escrivá has been working for some time to facilitate the entry of foreigners into the labor market and thus alleviate the deficit of workers suffered by some sectors, such as the hotel, construction, transport or digitalization industry. He has always tried to eliminate barriers to promote the labor insertion of immigrants, encourage the arrival of workers through regular routes and discourage the underground economy. With this approach, the minister managed to approve in July his main bet on migration, the reform of the Regulations of the Immigration Law. Here he included the figure of arraigo by training, an innovative formula that offers a one-year residence permit to train in a trade and a two-year work permit when obtaining a contract.
The reform of the Regulation also included a procedure, in principle easier, to expand the catalog of occupations that are difficult to cover, the list that includes the profile of professionals that, in theory, does not exist in Spain and that determines what type of workers can be signed up in other countries. With the new norm, instead of having to agree to the expansion of this list with unions and employers, the selection of sectors in need of personnel was sent to the Government Delegate Commission for Economic Affairs, made up mainly of members of economic portfolios. But the expansion of the catalogue, with which the minister wanted to include 31 trades related to construction, has been blocked since October by Labor and the presidency of the Government itself due to pressure from the unions.
The latest Migration initiative to encourage the arrival of workers materialized in an agreement signed with the United States on May 3. Spain promised to increase the legal migration of Latin Americans in the next three years “through channels that respond to the needs of the labor market.” Escrivá’s plan is to reinforce the circular immigration model with new quotas, a program that allows workers to come to work seasonally and return to their countries, and to open a new way to bring refugees “who have skills that fit the labor shortage”. Another formula that Escrivá’s ministry is exploring to promote hiring at source is to take advantage of the special status of Chile and Peru, which allows the signing of workers regardless of the labor market needs set by the Administration.
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