Plans to allow round-the-clock shopping in Madrid to fight Spain\'s economic downturn are worrying small shopkeepers, who say they will be unable to compete with large chains and department stores. The conservative Popular Party government in power in the Madrid region wants to allow shops to stay open 24 hours a day and will put the issue to a vote in the regional parliament by June. As the party enjoys a majority, the measure is expected to pass. \"It will give the shopkeeper the freedom to decide their timetable and which days they open,\" said the Madrid regional government\'s economy minister, Percival Manglano. \"If he wants to open at 3:00 am, he will do it if he thinks he is going to make money and if he believes he will not make money he will not.\" Italy introduced a similar law allowing round-the-clock shopping earlier this year as part of government efforts to boost the country\'s anaemic growth. Shop hours in the Madrid region, Spain\'s richest, are already the most liberal in the country with stores allowed to open on 22 Sundays through the year. The region\'s small shops, many of them family-run or employing just one or two workers, say they are not interested in longer opening hours. \"Since 1996, small shops can open every day of the year but no one did it except in tourist areas,\" said Salvador Santos Campano, president of the Federation of Self-Employed Retail Traders (CECOMA) which represents Madrid\'s small shopkeepers. \"And they will continue to not do it, even with the new law, because they can\'t. \"There are 75,000 small shops in Madrid, that is 320,000 jobs, therefore 320,000 families that also have the right to combine their professional lives with leisure time on Sunday, when their children are not in school. \"Those that will open are department stores and the chains,\" Santos Campano said. Large stores welcome the proposed new law. \"This will boost consumption and it is clearly directed at the creation of jobs,\" said the director general of the National Association of Large Distribution Companies, Javier Millan-Astray. The association estimates the change will create 20,000 new direct and indirect jobs, a figure similar to that predicted by the Madrid regional government. \"This measure will benefit all Madrid shops, big and small,\" said Manglano. \"What it does is increase the opportunity for all shopkeepers to find the hours and days which suit their activity best and boost their sales.\" Retail sales in Spain have plunged following the collapse of a property bubble in 2008 which has driven the jobless rate up to 21.5 percent, the highest level in the industrialised world. During the past three years, 5,000 shops have closed their doors in Madrid due to the economic crisis, according to CECOMA. The Madrid regional government argues the new law will encourage local residents to shop more and allow shops to capture more money from the 10 million tourists who visit the region each year. \"What this measure will do is increase the size of the pie for all,\" said Manglano. The small shopkeepers disagree. \"It is not because you are open longer that you are going to sell more. The size of the pie is the same regardless of whether you are open more or less hours. What you buy on a Sunday you will not buy during the week,\" said Santos Campano. \"It is possible that this will destroy 20,000 jobs. It will change the culture. We are going to put our kids in a shopping cart and go to large supermarkets or shopping malls instead of going to museums or doing sports.\"