All sectors are being hit by sick leave. | Gemma Andreu

In 2021, the Balearics led Spain's economic recovery, with growth and employment figures that reflected a degree of tourism revival but also how far the economy had slumped in 2020.

While inflation has raised concern about further recovery in 2022, Omicron and the impact of the so-called sixth wave are proving of greater concern and are leading to revised forecasts.

The director of the Fundació Impulsa public-private economic development foundation, Antoni Riera, says that the sixth wave will be a key factor influencing figures for the first six months. "There's no doubt about this, as it is again causing uncertainty, especially as this wave was so unexpected."

One of the most harmful effects is the avalanche of sick leave. According to the foundation, absenteeism is running at more than 20%. Something similar happened last January, when there was also a major increase in infections (it reached 22%), but under normal conditions, sick leave at this time of the year would not exceed 10%.

Riera is hopeful of a "much more normal" growth pattern this year, especially from June, "but the fact is that we do not know the rate as there are many factors to take account of".

After negative growth of -23.6% in 2020, 2021 is expected to have closed with a positive balance of more than 10%. Whatever happens, growth in 2022 will almost certainly be in the single digits, the Balearic government having forecast 12%.

The Pimem federation of small to medium-sized business associations says that sick leave is causing a "real headache". Pimem figures for December point to over 10,000 cases of sick leave, 3,000 more than official statistics, and the federation is complaining about the additional problem of the time it takes to process sick leave.

The CAEB Confederation of Balearic Business Associations is calling for "an urgent solution" to the administrative logjam in processing. The president, Carmen Planas, is in favour of an automatic procedure that allows the simultaneous processing of sick leave signing on and off and a duration of seven days. She also proposes shorter isolation periods for vaccinated people - a reduction to "a minimum for asymptomatic cases and those with mild symptoms".