Mallorca and the difficulties with finding seasonal workers

The hospitality sector was the first to draw attention to the problem, but the difficulties in finding workers for the season is affecting various other sectors of the Balearic labor market. The pandemic caused seasonal workers to seek employment that is not so dependent on the tourism sector and also in parts of the country with a lower cost of living, especially housing.

Employers say that they are struggling to find qualified labor and people who will accept the conditions and the workload. The unions, meanwhile, argue that there is something wrong if there is a lack of personnel while more than 40,000 people are unemployed.

In early April, the RBC-Mallorca restaurants association was sounding the alarm, its president, Eugenia Cusí, saying that there are workers who have left the island and that the uncertainty and instability of the sector has been key in their decision. For many people, work in bars and restaurants was “a job refuge”. “They have now either changed sectors or have left the island.”

The executive vice-president of the Mallorca Hoteliers Federation, María José Aguiló, points out that, although the flight of workers is affecting most sectors, tourism is the most obviously affected sector due to its greater seasonal nature. She says that there will not be staff shortages but does admit that finding enough chefs is an issue.

In the retail sector, the president of the Pimeco association, Toni Gayà, says that many people stopped coming to the Balearics because of the virus and have meanwhile found other work. An area that needs addressing, he adds, is training: “If people are trained, they can be more productive and therefore earn more.” His counterpart at Afedeco, Toni Fuster, agrees and notes that it is difficult to find people with languages.

The distributors say that they are finding it hard to get enough drivers. Ezequiel Horrach of the goods transport association explains that the problem is coinciding with the recovery in tourism activity and what may prove to be record numbers of tourists.

The construction industry is affected and so is agriculture, president of the Asaja agricultural businesses association, Joan Simonet, describing the lack of seasonal workers as “endemic”. He acknowledges that the situation has got worse this year for a sector which normally attracts up to 500 seasonal workers, many of whom – from Colombia and Morocco – have been coming each year. “The sector is very temporary and wages are not high, not because farmers don’t want to pay, but because they have no margin to do so. Hotels, shops and restaurants can raise their prices, we can’t.”

The unions, however, take a different view. Lorenzo Navarro of the UGT is “surprised that there is this problem when there are so many unemployed people”. “It is also hard for me to believe that certain sectors cannot find qualified people.” José Luis García of the CCOO stresses the need to “increase wages if you want qualified personnel” and to adopt measures to control housing prices.


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