Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

Hard-hit by the pandemic, Spain falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 28) with regard to economic policies. Its score in this area has improved by 1.3 points since 2014.

Spain experienced a severe collapse in GDP in mid-2020. With little margin for government spending, its response measures were less aggressive than those of some peers. However, its measures helped restore the economy to substantial growth in late 2020. Recovery since that time has been less vigorous than initially estimated, with the 2021 growth rate projected at 4.5%.

In the labor market, the government’s response focused on temporary layoffs, with workers still receiving 70% of their basic wage. This helped the unemployment rate recover to pre-pandemic levels by late 2021. A labor-market reform underway aims to enhance employment stability and incentivize training. Gig workers have been deemed company employees rather than self-employed workers.

New taxes have been passed on digital services and financial transactions. Tax collections overall are being increased. The 2021 deficit rose to 12.2% of GDP, with debt climbing to 120.3% of GDP. These figures are now on the decline. While research is traditionally a weak point, a new plan seeks to double public and private R&D funding by 2027.

Social Policies

Showing considerable gains in recent years, Spain falls into the upper-middle ranks internationally (rank 15) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has increased by 0.9 points since 2014.

The healthcare system is generally of high quality, with very good outcomes. The high degree of decentralization and a number of institutional shortcomings slowed decision-making in the early COVID-19 period, but coordination between the central and regional governments improved over time.

Education outcomes are mediocre due in part to out-of-date curriculum and teaching-quality concerns. Schools were well-prepared for lockdowns with digital infrastructure and tools, but many students did not have access to devices or internet at home, increasing inequality. The pandemic pushed a significant number of people into poverty. A minimum-income scheme has consequently been accelerated.

Family policy has evolved to recognize family-structure pluralism. Free childcare has been expanded to children three and under, and paternity leave has been increased. The gender pay gap is large.
Benefit reforms are addressing sustainability issues in the pension system. Despite little official government action in this area, immigrants’ integration is facilitated by broad societal tolerance.

Environmental Policies

With new ambition evident, Spain performs well (rank 10) with regard to environmental policy. Its score on this measure has improved by 1.8 points since 2014.

The country has passed a new climate change and energy transition law with ambitious targets for 2030, including a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 20% compared with 1990, a renewable share of at least 35% in final energy consumption, an electrical system with at least 70% of power coming from renewables, and a reduction of 35% in primary energy consumption.

Longer-term, the plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 90% and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Investment in renewable energy, e-mobility infrastructure, ecosystem and biodiversity protection, and housing-stock renewal is rising.

The government has adopted a circular economy strategy, a green infrastructure strategy and a hydrological planning cycle. It is planning to increase climate-related funding to less developed countries by 50% by 2025.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

With a modicum of normality returning after a period of tumultuous politics, Spain falls into the middle ranks (rank 21) with respect to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.7 points relative to 2014.

A new reform aims at helping Spanish citizens living overseas vote. Parties receive public and private funding. The Audit Office has launched a website tracking parties’ finances. Physical violence against journalists has become more common, and polarization is eroding trust in the media. Ownership in the media sector is highly concentrated, but online sources counterbalance oligopolistic trends.

Civil rights are generally well protected. The trial of Catalan separatist leaders was public, transparent and carried out in accordance with international standards. Roma are economically marginalized, and the rise of the Vox party has led to more vitriolic rhetoric against immigration and minority groups. A new open government plan will increase transparency and provide access to more data.

The Constitutional Court declared the pandemic-era state of alarm to have been unconstitutional. The main parties have ended a years-long stalemate on appointments to that court. A new code of conduct governing parliamentarians’ conflicts of interest has been adopted, and money laundering laws have been aligned with EU guidelines.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

Despite initial difficulties with the unfamiliar coalition-government model, Spain scores well (rank 12) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Lack of experience in managing a coalition government structure somewhat undermined the coherence of policy formulation, and led to coordination problems among line ministries. The Government Office and Prime Minister’s Office evaluate line-ministry proposals from the political and technical points of view. Strategic planning units take a long-term view of policy challenges.

RIAs are required for all new regulations. Ex post evaluations are still not performed in a systematic manner. The frequency of public consultation has increased over the years, with an online platform allowing citizens to participate. Communication coherence was impaired by scandals and coalition disputes. A cabinet reshuffle in 2021 was partly intended to improve communication and coordination.

Internal policy disputes within the coalition government ultimately led to one party leader leaving the cabinet. However, the coalition was able to advance an ambitious legislative agenda. Considerable sums were transferred to regional governments to help them deal with COVID-19. A long-awaited reform of the territorial financing model has been published. Disparities in regional outcomes are increasing.

Executive Accountability

Despite some bright spots, Spain receives a middling overall score (rank 21) in the area of executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to its 2014 level.

Parliamentarians have limited resources, but oversight powers are generally adequate. The audit office’s party-influenced appointments process hampers its independence. The ombudsman was replaced in late 2021 after four years of delay. The data-protection agency is effective, and is independent of the public administration.

Levels of political knowledge are generally low, but interest in political information is rising. The general public is highly concerned about the dissemination of false information. The media played a key role in providing information about COVID-19. New parties’ voters tend to follow new media and social networks rather than traditional media.

The party landscape has expanded dramatically, with parties pursuing varying internal-governance styles. Economic associations remain closely involved in the policymaking process despite constrained resources and a fragmentation of the labor market and economic landscape. Other civil-society organizations have less influence, but some play an important role in individual parties.
Back to Top