Spain is trapped by "shoes"
Shoemaking has always been a pillar industry in Spain. Leather shoes accounted for 80% of Spain's international trade volume, and shoe production accounted for 24.5% of all European shoes. That is to say, in Europe, one in every 4 pairs of shoes is produced in Spain. Today, the EU’s second largest footwear producer is in trouble. Due to the tremendous impact and influence from the footwear industry in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, the footwear industry in Spain is in a difficult position. Many manufacturers are trying to reduce costs and desperately squeeze their salaries, leaving young people lost their enthusiasm to work in shoe factories. The inheritance of the craft became a big problem.
When one mentions leather shoes, most people think of Italy first. The design and craftsmanship of Italian leather shoes are enduring and sought after. In fact, in addition to Italy, there is also a place where traditional shoes are made. It is Spain. It is world-famous for its artistic style leather shoes.
Today, the EU’s second largest footwear producer is in trouble. Due to the great impact and influence from the footwear industry in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, the footwear industry in Spain has been hit hard. The more serious problem is the proliferation of underground factories that use cash to pay for employees. In order to keep production costs down, employees’ salaries are very low, and the working environment is harsh. Young people in Spain have rarely gone to work in shoe factories, which also makes leather craft heritage a big problem.
Underground factories flourish
Walk around the domestic shopping malls, you will find that the Spanish shoes are brightly colored and the design is overwhelming, but the price is almost the same as the domestic ones. “Spanish-made shoes are very popular with customers, second only to Italian products,” said a clerk at a shoe store.
Speaking of the history of shoemaking in Spain, the 1970s was the golden age. At that time, American companies shifted the shoe manufacturing industry to Spain, which was then relatively backward in terms of economy. Today, there are more than 1,400 shoe factories in Spain. Nearly 25,000 employees inherited the finest leather crafts since the 19th century.
Spain's leather shoe factories spread all over the country, with the largest and most famous coastal cities in Alicante. Especially those family workshops, because several generations have been engaged in leather shoes production for a long time, summed up a set of extraordinary crafts, the production of leather shoes can be called a must. These shoe manufacturers often have their own stores in major cities to maintain their own brand name. In addition to leather shoes, Spain's leather clothing, bags, etc., quality and design are equally good.
People who bought Spanish leather shoes know that the leather shoes produced there are not inferior to Italy at all, and are about half as cheap as those produced in Italy. Data shows that shoemaking has always been a pillar industry in Spain. Among them, the export of leather shoes accounted for 80% of Spain's international trade, shoe production accounted for 24.5% of Europe. In other words, in Europe, one in every four pairs of shoes is produced in Spain, which reflects the long tradition of shoemaking in Spain and shoemaking strength. In recent years, in addition to being exported to Europe and the United States, Spanish leather shoes have also increased its exports to Asia. Its gorgeous artistic style has also become increasingly popular in Asia.
However, many problems are also testing this shoe-making country. Positioning is vague, not comparable to Italy in the high-end areas, but cheaper in the low-end areas in Asia. The low wages in the industry leads to the incompetence of workers, leaving the footwear industry in Spain into confusion.
Jose Maria Mollinedo, a tax officer at the Spanish Ministry of Finance’s technical staff union, said that the Spanish footwear industry still belongs to the “underground economy”.
Due to the great impact and influence from the footwear industry in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, the footwear industry in Spain is in a difficult situation. Many small and medium-sized shoe companies have closed down and a large number of shoe-making workers have become unemployed. Due to competitive pressures, prices cannot be raised. Manufacturers who survived naturally have to use their brains to reduce production costs. Some Spanish footwear manufacturers privately use cash to pay their employees for tax avoidance.
I remember always paying the salary like this. “The 57-year-old leather cutter, Manuel Molina, said in an interview with the media. He also said that his mother also worked in the factory where he worked and that her salary was paid in cash, so that the factory would not have to report it to the tax bureau.
In fact, this practice is very common, employees do not have to do a lot of work in the factory, such as cutting leather, fabric or sewing, small workshops and even at home to complete these tasks. For female employees, they can take care of their children while working from home.
Carlos de Castro, a professor of sociology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, said that there are many people in the shoe factory who have not been reported to work. These include tailors working from home and illegal immigrant workers handling trucks. Some factories will report some jobs to tax officials while other production jobs are outsourced to private workshops.
Workers in underground factories seldom complain about their low salary and poor working conditions because they fear losing their jobs. The employees who signed the contract did not receive very good treatment—the monthly income before tax was between EUR963-6060, and these contracts did not provide much job security.
This practice angered some unions and legal shoe factories.
“We are not competitive with these underground companies. They don’t pay employees, they don’t pay employee social security, and the cost of each pair of shoes they produce is 2 to 3 euros cheaper than us.” Juan Antonio Macia, manager of the Salvador Artesano shoe factory in Elche, is furious. Said.
Carlos de Castro said that due to the harsh working conditions, some young people do not want to work in these underground factories, and Spain's leather craft is very likely to be lost. “The grandmother passed on to her mother and the mother passed it back to you. The leather crafts are passed down from generation to generation,” he said.
Improve positioning to find a way out
Neither want to maintain the development of the footwear industry through the underground economy, let the once brilliant shoe-making process become cheap labor products, and do not want to cut off the inheritance of the shoe-making process. Spain is working hard to open up new technologies.
At present, the Inescop is leading a new research project with the goal of developing safer tanning techniques using a chromium-free process called Oxatan, which is based on an environmentally friendly oxazolidine tanning process.
Although the role of chromium salt in tanning process is very important, this substance and its residues are very harmful to the environment. In many countries, the law requires that recycling plants must protect the environment from the harm of highly toxic tannery sewage.
The Spanish Shoemaking Technology Association spent several years looking for new materials to replace the chromium used in tanning leather production. The research has yielded excellent results. There is no evidence that using oxazolidine to tanning leather can pollute the environment. This can help the local footwear and furniture decoration industry meet the legal environmental requirements.
In addition, the Spanish shoe-making company applies modern high-tech-computers and robots to the production process, automating as much as possible to save manpower and reduce the proportion of wages in the cost. Its shoe last design, enamel type engraving, sample design, cutting, and bottom equipment are all operated by computer program control equipment. The introduction of automated equipment in this all-round and multi-work type not only improves the accuracy of product production, but also The labor force has been greatly reduced. The original few people operated a piece of equipment and now become one person to operate several devices.
The cost saved is to create conditions for professional and technical personnel training.
It is reported that at present, there are several modes of technical training for Spanish footwear: technical worker training. This model is more prevalent in Spanish shoe-making companies, mainly providing intermediate courses for technicians and advanced courses for shoe mold design. Another important reason is that most of these courses are aimed at young people. Intermediate courses apply to the secondary school level, advanced courses apply to the university level, and industry training. There is a national foundation in Spain that supports the footwear industry training. At the same time, it allows shoe-making companies to cooperate with private training institutions to fund specific projects. In addition, there are some regional and European institutions, such as the European Social Foundation (EsF), who also provide some help for them; the teacher training for the footwear industry. The Spanish Shoe Technical Association is also responsible for the training function. These trainings cannot be given in other private or public institutions. The association's training is not mainly for students, but is responsible for training related teachers; on-the-job training. There are more than 50 training institutions in this category. The scope of training covers all aspects of the footwear industry. The main courses are aimed at small classes with less than 20 people; academic education. The core curriculum in Spain is professional diploma education in management and shoe leather technology and design. This academic education has been in place for 18 years. It is of great significance to the talent pool of the Spanish footwear industry. To obtain this degree, you must complete more than 1200 hours of study each year. The main subjects include: production steps, leather materials, art and CAD design, sample preparation, business organization, business English, quality control, environmental science, safety production, work Finding technology, computer applications, etc. These practical courses have trained a large number of professional technicians in Spain to ensure the successful transformation of the Spanish footwear industry to high-end.
At the same time, the Spanish footwear industry has also made a fuss about its own positioning, began to build its own brand, and took the high-end line, which is to shift its focus from the mid-range shoes that had dominated in the past to mid- to high-end shoes. Among them, women's shoes are in the leading position in both output and output value. Data show that women's shoes accounted for 60% of the Spanish shoe exports, is the flagship product of the Spanish footwear industry.
Mascaro, which created the two brands Jaime Mascaro and Ursula Mascaro, shifted its focus to high-end women's shoes. Through its own branded store network and clear brand appeal, Mascaro has greatly integrated its international market. Other brands, such as Audley, Magrit, RasAlilma, and Chie Mihara, have also adopted new materials and more advanced designs to create new international images.
The foundation is laid, and the rest is "hello." It is understood that more than 30 international footwear exhibitions are held around the world each year, and over 80% of SMEs in Spain will visit their countries to exhibit their products, collect market demand, and establish sales channels. Some companies are busy at exhibitions around the world for 2/3 of the year.
Facts have proved that the efforts of the Spanish footwear industry are still effective. At the beginning of this year, Spanish footwear exports began a strong start. In January and February, Spanish footwear manufacturers exported a total of 29 million pairs of shoes, totaling 565 million euros, and the average export price per pair of shoes was approximately 19.33 euros. Compared with the same period in 2014, the export volume and total export value increased by 4.9% and 14.1% respectively. Another encouraging statistic is the increase in the number of people employed in the Spanish shoe manufacturing regions. Previously, a set of data released by the Spanish media showed that the unemployment rate in Elche fell by 10% last year, and this year's unemployment rate in the region has been the lowest level in five years. Statistics show that leather manufacturing and footwear production have made important contributions. In 2014, 8300 new jobs were created, accounting for 80% of the total employment growth industry. Of the total number of people employed in the region, 66% came from leather and footwear.
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