For unemployed immigrants to Spain, there’s one last-resort “job” that sometimes pays more than minimum wage. It’s dumpster diving, and it’s particularly lucrative for former construction workers.
On a Barcelona street, a well-dressed, middle-aged Spanish man averts his eyes from onlookers as he reaches his arm deep into a dumpster.
It’s a scene that’s become more common since the economic crisis hit Spain, plunging the country into Europe’s deepest recession. According to Spain’s National Institute of Statistics, unemployment currently stands at 26 percent.
But for those who have immigrated to Spain the number is closer to 35 percent, and of the thousands of Spaniards now searching through dumpsters by night, many are immigrants.
“Here, take a look at this!” one says in broken Spanish. “This is junk metal, but it’s worth a bit of money.”
The Pakistani immigrant arrived in Spain four years ago to work in construction. Shortly after he arrived the industry collapsed. He lifts a few unbroken eggs out of a crate in a separate dumpster for organic waste. But he concentrates his energy more on the plastic cables or copper wire. He worked construction just long enough to make contacts with builders who are seeking cheap materials.
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