The Government and the Generalitat of Catalonia announced last Monday a major project . After years of friction, the two administrations joined forces to make the expansion of the El Prat airport a reality. The Government spokeswoman, Isabel Rodríguez, surprised by communicating enthusiastic figures: the operation would require an investment of 1.7 billion euros.
These millions, said the minister, “translate into job creation, specifically 83,000 direct jobs and also 365,000 total jobs .” But the figures provided by Aena to EL PAÍS qualify those announced by the Minister of Territorial Policy.
The airport manager specifies that the expansion of the Barcelona aerodrome would provide 45,000 new direct jobs. And in total there would be 185,000 jobs, also adding the indirect and those derived from economic activities related to the expense or professional work of travelers during their stay in Spain.
The forecasts communicated by Minister Rodríguez were almost double because they included the existing positions, both in El Prat and those related to their activity. Consulted by this newspaper, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport and Mobility confirms that there was an error in the initial announcement.
All these numbers come from a study that Aena commissioned from a team of academics from the University of Barcelona (UB) and which was made public last June. The employment generation projections for an airport like El Prat are impressive, but they coincide with the variables that are applied in similar analyzes for other Spanish and European airports. The Aena spokesperson indicates that the calculation standards of the Airports Council International have also been followed.
The UB study does not include potential negative effects on the economy due to pollution linked to airport activity . According to the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, if global warming continues at the current rate, the impact on the economy will amount to almost two points of the GDP of the European Union.
The expansion of the airport, which has raised a majority opposition from neighboring municipalities, is pending environmental authorization from the European Commission .
The increase in direct jobs due to the airport activity contemplated in the study is 43%, from the current 38,100 to 54,700, above the 38% expected increase in the number of passengers El Prat will be able to accommodate: from the 52 million in 2019 to 72 million total capacity with the extended runway and the new satellite terminal in operation. Jordi Suriñach, professor of applied economics at UB and coordinator of the report, summarizes that the jobs derived from airport activity are positions in airlines, passenger service, terminal shops, cleaning services, security or transport of luggage and merchandise.
According to the data from the 2018 study, 48% of the direct jobs in El Prat – the main item – were from companies that provide services to airlines,
A business park
What makes the number of direct jobs soar to 83,000 are the jobs that would be created in a new business and logistics park that includes the expansion of El Prat. The direct jobs that this business and commercial park would generate exceed 28,300.
This new space, according to the UB document, would host companies for online commerce , digital and aeronautical engineering, information services and a shopping center. To this must be added the nearly 2,000 direct jobs that for ten years would be dedicated to the construction of the entire project.
The report commissioned by Aena emphasizes that the generation of employment beyond direct positions and those in the area of influence of El Prat is “difficult to quantify”. These, in addition to the activity generated by tourism, derive from the expenditure made by passengers during their trip,but also of the business activity linked to their professional activity.
Alfredo Pastor, a professor at the Iese business school and former Secretary of State for the Economy, is skeptical: “It is not serious to imply that if the airport is not expanded, 150,000 jobs will be lost. Also, what kinds of jobs? Of what added value? Airline services are basically the same jobs as those working for tourist cruises. ” Pastor is also critical of the planned business park: “If there is something available in Barcelona, it is square meters of offices.”
The figures provided by the study would raise the weight of El Prat in Catalonia’s GDP from 6.8% to 8.9%. The total jobs that could arise from the exploitation of the expanded El Prat would be more than 450,000, of which 80% would be in Catalonia – the 365,000 mentioned by Rodríguez – and 20% in the rest of Spain.
Compared to the pre-pandemic figures, according to Suriñach’s team, this would be 69% more. Equally impressive are the increases in tax revenue for the State that the expansion of the airport would bring, especially thanks to the collection of VAT: from 7,500 million in 2018 to 12,900 million euros, 72% more.
The expansion plan announced by the Government also introduces the Barcelona high-speed rail connection with the Reus and Girona airports. The economic impact report, according to Suriñach, has not taken into account the repercussions that new investments may have on the aerodromes of these two cities.