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Practically overnight, as many Catalans as were receiving unemployment benefits at the height of the financial crisis find themselves waiting for their monthly payment from the state once again. That is, a total of 668,104 workers will be paid the unemployment benefit temporarily, as their firms have filed to lay them off under temporary employment regulation schemes (ERTOs, in the Catalan acronym). A total of 90,815 such ERTOs have been registered since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of people affected now exceeds the peak unemployment recorded during the great financial crisis, when 665,176 people were registered as unemployed in Catalonia, in February 2013.

The numbers of people affected continues to rise: the psychological  barrier of the 2013 jobless total was exceeded in the last few hours, as 832 companies presented new ERTOs meaning that 5,713 further employees would stop work, in theory temporarily. As a percentage of the workforce, the new total represents 19.2% of the active population at the end of last year. The vast majority of the layoff schemes are centred on Barcelona: 66,004 different ERTOs which affect 524,027 workers. In the Girona counties,  65,032 workers are on ERTOs; in Lleida, 28,655; and in Tarragona, 50,390 workers will receive benefits via these plans.

Despite the "temporary" nature of the layoffs, the longer-term outlook is also worrying for many. "In theory, my ERTO is for three months," a travel industry employee told "But if you ask me what happens after that, I'd say, if we're lucky it will be extended till September. If we're not, the company might close."   

ERTOs justified by a force majeure situation represent 95% of those submitted to the Catalan labour ministry.