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AUSTERITY SPAIN

Unemployed to lose benefits under mere “suspicion” of fraud

Unions slam change under which Labor Ministry will not have to provide proof

The government’s cutbacks in unemployment benefit payments have taken an Orwellian turn with the announcement that even a suspicion of fraud will be sufficient to suspend payments. As part of its latest austerity drive the Popular party government last week cut the payment of unemployment benefit from 60 to 50 percent of the salary earned previously after a person has been out of work for six months.

Until now, a person suspected of defrauding the system — by working while claiming benefits — would lose the right to claim only if and when fraud was definitively proven. In some cases the loss of benefits is temporary; sometimes it is permanent. Under the new regulations, these sanctions can be imposed whether actual proof of wrongdoing is obtained or not.

The Labor Ministry justified the decision by saying that this would increase its armory in the fight against fraud. But the labor unions decried the announcement as opening the door to “arbitrariness and the criminalization of the unemployed worker.”