Business is good, but getting workers can be problematic. | MDB

While the festive season is expected to bring very good business, the restaurant sector in Mallorca is anticipating a positive winter from a revival in trade compared with last winter. The pandemic is over and, despite inflation, people are going out.

However, the sector faces the same problems that it experienced during the tourism season - staff shortages. Figures from the Balearics Statistics Institute indicate that job vacancies are at record levels. Taking the first three quarters of this year together, there were 10,200 vacancies. For the years 2017 to 2021, only 2019 comes close to this number - 6,339. Vacancies for the second and third quarters were all-time records. By employment sector, 92% of all vacancies this year have been in services; 65% of all vacancies have been for businesses with fifty or fewer employees.

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Unemployment, meanwhile, has stood at around 35,000 since April this year. The president of the CAEB restaurants association, Alfonso Robledo, says that "something is wrong when he have that many people unemployed while there are so many vacancies to fill". He believes that the pandemic has "spoiled" many employees, who are not prepared to work longer hours and who, when it comes to overtime at Christmas, "are asking us to pay them in black". Businesses, he insists, are flatly rejecting this; the risks from increased inspections designed to eradicate such abuses are too great.

A way of tackling staff shortages, which don't only affect Mallorca and the Balearics, comes from a reform of immigration law that the Spanish government is proposing; it will facilitate procedures and permits for foreigners to work in Spain. Robledo and unions aren't against this, but they argue that jobs should, as much as possible, be for local people. For Robledo, a solution should lie not with bringing in foreign workers but with enabling more people to be placed on 'fijo discontinuo' contracts. "That way, people can work for some months without having to worry about losing unemployment benefit."