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labor shortages in Portugal, Catalonia and Italy

The lack of labor in tourism is not recent, but it is worsening in many countries affected, over the past two years, by the Covid-19 crisis. Direction Portugal, Catalonia and Italy.

Portugal seeks 50,000 workers for its tourist season

After the Covid-19 pandemic, the excitement is back, but at least 50,000 workers are missing. Due to lack of work during the pandemic, tourism employees have been absorbed by other sectors. Some have created their own business and do not want to give it up. The year got off to a bad start in terms of tourism with a 40% drop in hotel activity and a 60% decline in turnover for a third of restaurants. But with the control of the pandemic since Easter, the sector has regained color. And the summer season which is already starting looks promising. So the employers make an effort, they offer bonuses, vacations in group hotels and accommodation to compensate for the meager basic salary of 705 euros per month. But nothing helps. We need cooks waiters receptionists and cleaners.

Where will Portugal find these missing personnel? First target: Portuguese-speaking African countries such as Cape Verde, a tourist country also affected by the pandemic. In addition to the common language, the advantage lies in the existence of a network of hotel schools totally modeled on the Portuguese model. The language also for Brazil, a major supplier of labor in tourism in Portugal, but currently hundreds of visas are blocked due to administrative congestion. Moreover, Portugal has signed a labor mobility agreement with India and is preparing to do the same with Morocco. Finally, the last possible track, the Ukrainian refugees, many of whom speak English. And a certainty there is no question of missing a third summer season.

In Catalonia, restaurants reduce their hours for lack of staff

In Barcelona and on the Costa Brava, the hotel and catering industry has never had to face such a lack of manpower. Small posters “we are looking for staff” are popping up at the entrance to establishments. Catalonia has regained its pre-Covid attendance, but for lack of sufficient servers, restaurants will be forced to reduce their hours. Customers will have to be patient before being served. “It’s really difficult to find qualified staff lately in the kitchen and in the dining room.believes Marco, owner of a restaurant near the beach, because after two years of the pandemic, many people have less desire to work. There are a lot of people in the restaurant industry who ask me every day if I know someone, references… It’s a bit difficult.”

But this disaffection is not only explained by the coronavirus, the sector was already struggling to recruit. It’s hard work, the wages are low. On average in Barcelona a server earns 1,300 euros per month, just a little above the minimum wage. This is the case of Lautaro, employed in a cocktail bar. He has two children, and if he could he would change jobs. “It’s not just a question of salary, it’s also the conditions: we work a lot of hours, we work on weekends, at night… We work when everyone is freehe confides. And then before it paid well, but now it’s over. I understand that people go to look for work elsewhere.”

To cope with the lack of staff, hotels on the Costa Brava now offer accommodation for employees. On the island of Ibiza, an establishment offers a bonus of 200 euros to an employee who manages to hire someone else.

Italy introduces measures to attract workers

In Italy, the hotel and restaurant sector is also struggling to hire. In terms of figures, the sector employs around 350,000 seasonal workers, and four out of ten are missing for the season which has already started. The pandemic has been there and these workers have converted to mass distribution or are self-employed for delivery platforms. But there is another explanation and the various employers’ unions all seem to agree, Matteo Salvini’s League too: it is the citizenship income, a sort of Italian-style RSA created just three years ago and who would be privileged at work, in any case a kind of competition. The boss of the federation of hoteliers even believes that he “It’s time to put these people back to work!”. This is not the only reason: there are training problems, disjointed schedules, low wages too. The employers say they are ready to increase them but if their charges decrease.

There are some incentives to improve working conditions, as in Liguria for example where a bonus financed by the region and Europe, from 2,000 to 6,000 euros, is given to employers who hire in good standing and in good conditions . The contract must last at least six months and even nine for bars and restaurants. The idea: to make the sector less precarious by lengthening the season and improving working conditions. But Liguria is the only region to do so at the moment.

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