THOUSANDS of Spaniards flooded the streets of Malaga on Saturday to protest against ‘undignified’ state pensions.
It comes after pension payouts were increased by 0.25% in 2017, which critics claim is not in line with inflation which currently stands at 1.1%.
Unions and action groups called upon pensioners to put pressure on the government, led by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, by staging protests across Spain.
The words ‘More pension, less corruption’ echoed throughout the Andalucian city, as thousands marched in the rain for almost two hours.
Dolores Bermudo, 55, used to work in agriculture but since being diagnosed with a severe degenerative bone disease, she has been left unable to work.
The retiree struggles on just €400 a month.
“I can’t make ends meet and there’s practically no job that I can do. This is not fair.
“I think [the government] should, at the very least, increase pensions in line with the way CPI has increased. Things are becoming more expensive,” she added.
Although Dolores owns a house, she says her pension – which is less than half of Spain’s minimum wage salary – rarely covers her bills, property tax and most importantly, food.
“Spain is totally unfair for pensioners. No, actually, it’s not Spain but the politicians that govern us.
“There’s nothing for pensioners but for everyone else there is because there’s so much fraud,” she said.
Many believe the root of the low pension payouts comes down to poor job opportunities and low income.
Dolores Latorre, 64, said: “The more people earn, the more tax they can pay.”
Husband Manolo, former CEO of a construction company, agreed that the solution is ‘very simple’ – a greater salary equals a greater pension.
“If people earn a small income, they can’t pay for social security. People who work need to have a dignified salary,” said the retired 68-year-old.
Dolores continued: “And what’s worse is that [the government] is laughing and telling us to save, but how are young people going to save?
“Today is for the youth too.”
Juan Manuel, 64, was forced to retire early (at the age of 61) after he struggled to find stable employment for a number of years.
He has worked in various industries from catering, to construction and taxi driving.
After pensions increased last year, Juan was entitled to an extra €2.01 per month, meaning he now receives a monthly income of €831.
“It’s an insult to everyone who has worked all their life,” he said.
Others blame the long suffered financial crisis which has crippled Spain since 2008.
Julia Joyas, now retired, worked in the hotel sector for 40 years and receives what she describes as an ‘average’ payout.
“According to the government we’re coming out of the recession but it’s getting worse for us retirees.
“We’re not out of the recession and most of the people at this march know it,” she said.
The 67-year-old believes that although a good pension is an acquired right, the government needs to create better job prospects.
“Every day we earn less. There’s poor people who work, yet they continue to be poor,” added Julia.
However, one issue that all agreed on, was their distaste for politicians’ spending habits, despite the Spanish government claiming it paid €139 billion last year in state pensions.
Sebastian Brillales, 67, said although he receives a good pension after working in banking, he is tired of the ‘government’s corruption’.
“The PP are constantly giving money away to their friends. If we get rid of corruption, there won’t be an issue with pensions,” he added.
The pensioner’s friend, José Leiva, is surviving on just €600 a month, despite working and paying taxes all his life: “Of course this isn’t enough to live on. It’s impossible,” said the 70-year-old.
José Manuel, 55, is part of the pension action group, MERP, which aims to safeguard state pensions.
Still working as an electrician, José says he protests to defend not only older people but also the generations which will follow.
He said: “Young people need to be more aware of this. The government wants to privatise the system so the banks can take over the business that is public pension.
“To be honest, I am worried. We are worried.”