The Spanish government is to improve conditions for young researchers - but not nearly enough, says the country's Young Researchers' Federation (FJI).
From January 2004, PhD students and postdoctorals in receipt of a grant will be given the right to sick pay, state health cover, pension contributions and maternity or paternity leave, but not unemployment benefits.
Luis Quijada of the FJI said: "We had nothing and this is something, but it still perpetuates the young researcher as student not worker and this is the root of the problem."
The changes will be included in a new statute, to be published later this year. This was "the first of several measures to improve the rights of this group", said Matilde Sánchez Ayuso, director-general of universities.
But the FJI said that young researchers were often unemployed between grants and needed unemployment benefits.
Moreover, other benefits will be calculated on the basis of minimum contributions, even if the individual in question is earning more. Finally, only grants included in an official register will confer these rights, but registration will be voluntary.
Dr Quijada said the statute reinforced postdoctorals' status as students rather than workers. He said that Spain was the only country in Europe to classify postdoctorals not working abroad as students and provide them with grants rather than fees or salaries.