About 3.1 million pensioners in Spain, or 32.6 percent, earn less than US$10.11, falling below the country's poverty line, according to a report by the Technicians of the Finance Ministry, or Gestha, based on data published by Spain's tax agency.
Gestha says the report is evidence of the “urgent” need for increasing minimum pensions, but the government is conditioning such increase on the approval of the State's General Budget in 2018.
Andalucia and Cataluna are the Spanish communities with the highest number of pensioners with incomes below the poverty line, with 641,617 and 521,763 pensioners respectivily, followed by Valencia, Madrid and Galicia.
Meanwhile, about 40 percent of pensioners in Canarias, Galicia and Murcia, have incomes below the poverty line.
Spain's low incomes and increasing cost of life have led the population to organize massive protests all over the country. Just days ago women all around Spain gathered in different cities to protest the income gender gap that affects working women, earning about two-thirds of a man's income in the same position.
That gender gap is also evident in pensions, with 60.4 percent of the pensioners with incomes below the poverty line being women.
Women older than 65 years earn almost 49 percent less that men of the same age, meaning they earn about US$ 7,114 less on average. The gap is especially wide in Austurias, where women of that age earn US$ 10,789 less than men.
Spanish unions and social organizations have been protesting the low incomes of retired people for months, but the government claims they aren't able to provide a raise since the Spanish population is getting old and there are less workers supporting the pensions' national fund.
When a 0.25 percent raise was announced in 2017, pensioners considered it an insult. “This miserable raise doesn't correspond to the current growth of the Spanish economy,” pensioners organizations have argued.
Tens of thousands went out to the streets in different Spanish cities and towns on March 17 to demand a pension pay raise in a new wave of protests led by retired people and workers' unions.
Protests were especially big in Madrid, Barcelona, and Bilbao where the downtown public squares were packed despite heavy rains. But Mariano Rajoy's government is unwilling to comply with their demands.
“We cannot spend what we don't have and we are obliged to fullfill our agreement with the European Union regarding the public deficit,” said Rajoy at the House of Representatives in a meeting regarding pensions as he rejected a general pension rise.
The government says they spent US$ 171 billion on pensions in 2017, making about 29 percent of the total public expenditure.