The UIB reactivates the Social Observatory of the Balearic Islands

The University of the Balearic Islands has, in this time of difficult social circumstances, reactivate the Social Observatory of the Balearic Islands, led by professor Maria Antònia Carbonero and coordinated by the Inequalities, Gender and Public Policies research group. The aim is to collect and produce information to improve knowledge on the social situation in Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera, as well as detect emerging situations, critical points and innovative responses that aid cohesion and social justice. The Observatory receives support from the 'La Caixa' Social Innovation Chair.

The first stage of the Observatory coincided with the impact from the 2008 financial crisis and lasted from 2009 to 2012. Now in this new stage, the Observatory has proposed producing a social barometer for the Balearic Islands and has started to collect a series of indicators that are equivalent to those from the 'La Caixa' Social Observatory, in addition to identifying best practice initiatives in social innovation.

'The Social Observatory of the Balearic Islands has a clear public remit, which is particularly important for the times we are living in now that are marked by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic', explains Observatory director Maria Antònia Carbonero.

Indicators ad best practice in social innovation

This year, the Observatory has, in line with the approach at the 'La Caixa' Social Observatory, set itself the aim of producing the barometer and collecting and cataloguing all social innovation initiatives in the Balearic Islands. The barometer will include contextual indicators (GDP per capita, job rates, population, natural movement, migrations, etc.), inclusions and citizenship (poverty rates, inequalities, early school leaving and access to basic services such as education, health and housing), and specific gender inequality, social intervention and social policy indicators.

The indicators will be accessible over the Observatory website and be updated periodically. There will also be e-newsletters with information from the social barometer (Breus) and specific sectoral social reports on indicators and social policies.

Initial effects of COVID-19 on social vulnerability

The Observatory released its first newsletter in this new stage in May regarding the initial impact of COVID-19 on social vulnerability in the islands. Although available information is still fragmented and marked by the immediacy and urgency of the situation, the newsletter looks at the main epidemic figures, the devastating effects in terms of jobs, the huge wave of requests for social protection and the response from public administrations and the voluntary sector, as well as emerging solidarity initiatives.

The data highlight that the means and resources to avoid infections in healthcare settings have been lacking and underscored a market system that places a price on life to the detriment of the welfare state, which is seen as deficient: it does not fight social inequality nor guarantee basic needs are covered. Setting a ceiling price for masks (and the pushback against this political decision by opposition parties) is an example of the tension between the markets and the state.

In turn, social inequalities have also been clear with class and gender bias being evidenced. Indeed, part of the higher impact on women under 60 as opposed to men in the same group can be explained by the fact that many essential health, care and cleaning jobs, in addition to those at supermarkets, are done by more women than men. For this reason, the authors point out that at a health and social level, COVID-19 highlights the need to rethink and reorient the current welfare and care model.

Worse job figures than in the last economic crisis

In terms of the job market, the Balearic Islands saw the highest year-on-year spike in unemployment in April with a 62.1% rise. Moreover, nearly a third of those registered with social security on the islands have been affected by the government furlough scheme (ERTE): 141,614 people, representing 30.7% of the total. Many of those suffering from precarious employment circumstances are having difficulties accessing help and benefits.

Unions have had to adapt their structure and operations in the face of the avalanche of requests from workers impacted by the jobs crisis created by coronavirus. The different unions have dealt with nearly 50,000 queries up to the end of April, most linked to lay-offs and the furlough, as well as health and safety in the workplace to avoid infection. Along these lines, a demand for personal protection equipment (PPE) and occupational health measures in light of the coronavirus outbreak has been seen across all employment sectors.

The jobs situation is highly concerning. The latest forecast from the International Labour Organization (ILO) points to over 300 million full-time job losses around the world, in addition to 1.6 billion in the informal sector seeing a direct impact from economic actvity being suspended. These figures far outweigh those seen in the 2008-2011 economic crisis; two of the most affected sectors (both then and now) are hotels and catering, which represent a large proportion of the economic activity in the Balearic Islands.

Best practice: mutual support network

With regard to best practice, the newsletter highlights the mutual support networks in Majorca and Ibiza that have materialised alongside current initiatives from local residents associations. In Majorca, the network has bases in 31 towns across the island and 32 neighbourhoods in Palma, whilst the Ibiza network helps around 30 families in food poverty. These are not care or charity resources but rather horizontal mutual support tools that spontaneously sprang up around the islands in response to the coronavirus crisis, and will also be monitored by the OSIB.


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Publication date: 19/05/2020