Spain

   

Social Policies

#17
Key Findings
With the constraints of austerity abating, Spain falls into the upper-middle ranks internationally (rank 17) in the area of social policies. Its score on this measure has increased by 0.7 points since 2014.

Education outcomes are mediocre due in part to out-of-date curriculum, teaching-quality concerns and overall low funding. Austerity-period cuts are being reversed, and the government has plans to provide universal access to preschool education. Social exclusion rates are falling, but child-poverty rates are a serious concern. The share of employed people living under the poverty threshold is also very high.

The high-quality healthcare system is quite decentralized, with the public insurance system covering 99% of the population. Family policy is underdeveloped, with traditional gender roles persisting. Women’s workplace pay gap is large. Policymakers are beginning to address the issue of gender-based violence.

Though it largely prevents retiree poverty, the pension system is increasingly viewed as unsustainable. Despite little official government action in this area, immigrants’ integration is facilitated by broad societal tolerance. The caretaker PSOE government adopted tougher measures pushing back migrants, but Spain is no longer the main Mediterranean route for undocumented migrants.

Education

#17

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
7
Despite the education system’s outstanding improvement since the 1980s, Spaniards largely regard educational outcomes within their country as mediocre. In fact, the education system was ranked at only 24th place among OECD countries (based on PISA test results). Reasons for the poor results, although the causes differ strongly across regions, include a curriculum regarded as out of date, poor teaching quality and the large number of students who repeat years. Although early school-leaving rates continue to decrease figures are still very high. Among EU member states, the percentage of early leavers from education and training in 2018 ranged between 3.3% in Croatia and 17.9% in Spain.

In 2017, Spain spent 3.1% of GDP on primary and secondary education, compared to an OCED average of 3.5% of GDP. Private spending on education is significant, while public spending has remained the same compared to GDP. However, spending levels vary across the regions (most public spending on education is managed at the subnational level by the autonomous communities’ governments). This diversity is the result of differing orientations on education policy, the financial resources available and number of private centers in each region.

The education system continues to experience challenges related to quality and equity. However, the system has been shaped not only by socioeconomic struggles over distribution, but also by conflicts over religious, linguistic-cultural and national identity issues, as well as political factors. In 2019, the PSOE-government announced that it would provide universal access to preschool education (0-3 years), and would reverse measures implemented during the hardest austerity years, such as the increase in the teacher-student ratio and the increase in instructors’ teaching hours. However, at the time of writing, planned reforms, reflecting political uncertainties, have been slowed down. Nevertheless, the process of modernizing vocational education and training is ongoing.

Citations:
OECD(2019), Spain – Overview of the education system, http://gpseducation.oecd.org/CountryProfile?primaryCountry=ESP&treshold=10&topic=EO

EC(2019), Education and Trading Monitor, Spain
https://ec.europa.eu/education/sites/education/files/document-library-docs/et-monitor-report-2019-spain_en.pdf

Social Inclusion

#21

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
6
Societal exclusion remains a problem for Spain. However, the population at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE rate) stood at 26.1% in 2018 compared to 26.6% in 2017. Thus, the AROPE rate has now fallen below the 2010 figure, according to the Spanish statistical institute.

Those at a higher risk of marginalization include immigrants, unemployed youth and elderly people with minimal pensions. According to the Spanish statistical institute, child poverty in Spain (under 16 years old) is a particularly serious problem. In 2018, 28.8% of children were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. This included 26.2% of children who were at risk of poverty, 7.3% who lived in households with a low intensity of employment and 6.2% who endured severe material deprivation.

Finally, the share of employed people living under the poverty threshold is also very high. The country was given 24th place in the 2017 Social Justice Index. The high long-term poverty rate, along with the absence of an effective policy to lift people out of poverty, has already had negative effects on social coexistence. Seeking to address this situation in 2018, the government created a High Commissioner for the Fight against Childhood Poverty within the Prime Minister’s Office aimed at defining joint lines of action to improve living conditions and opportunities for children living in Spain.

Nonetheless, Spain is on par with the OECD average in terms of welfare spending on pension, family, health and integration policies as a share of GDP. Moreover, the situation is better with regard to areas of discrimination not associated with poverty, particularly regarding LGBTI rights (see “Non-discrimination”) and gender equality. In the PSOE-government 2018 – 2019, two-thirds of the cabinet ministers were women, while the WPS Index (Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security) ranks Spain 15 out of 153 countries with regard to societal inclusion and security for women.

Citations:
EC (2019), Europe 2020 targets – https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/eu-economic-governance-monitoring-prevention-correction/european-semester/european-semester-your-country/spain/europe-2020-targets-statistics-and-indicators-spain_en#poverty-and-social-exclusion

INE (2019), Living Conditions Survey
https://www.ine.es/dyngs/INEbase/en/operacion.htm?c=Estadistica_C&cid=1254736176807&menu=ultiDatos&idp=1254735976608

Bertelmann Stiftung(2019), Social Justice Index Report
https://www.bertelsmann-stift ung.de/fileadmin/files/BSt/Publikat ionen/GrauePublikationen/NW_EU_Soci al_Justice_Index_2017.pdf

Georgetown University (2019), Women, Peace, and Security Index, https://giwps.georgetown.edu/the-index/

Health

#3

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
8
The Spanish national healthcare system is a highly decentralized one. This is because executive competences are transferred to the 17 autonomous communities, with the national level responsible for certain strategic areas as well as for the overall coordination and the national monitoring of regional performance. The healthcare system largely achieves the criteria of quality, inclusiveness and cost efficiency. According to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which examined 169 economies, Spain is the healthiest country in the world, while its healthcare system ranks third in terms of efficiency. OECD data also shows that Spain has the second-highest life expectancy after Japan, with Spain predicted to rank first by 2040. Spaniards’ self-perceptions of their health status and their national healthcare system reflect a degree of satisfaction that is quite high in cross-OECD comparison.

However, rates of mental illness, diabetes and drug consumption are higher than the European averages. Population aging and the subsequent increase in the incidence of chronic diseases present significant challenges to the system’s sustainability over the medium and long term. Moreover, the number of practicing doctors and nurses, and available hospital beds per 1,000 residents is relatively low while other deficiencies relate to waiting lists, patient rights and sickness prevention. There is interregional inequality too.

Nevertheless, access to a core set of high-quality healthcare services is today guaranteed through a public insurance system that covers 99% of the population. In 2019, the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare launched a number of initiatives. These initiatives included the withdrawal from market of thousands of homeopathic products, as well as the drafting of legislation to regulate euthanasia and incorporate a “right to die” in public healthcare for patients that have “a serious and incurable” or “incapacitating” disease that causes “unbearable suffering.”

Citations:
Enrique Bernal-Delgado (2018), Spain – Health system review – http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/378620/hit-spain-eng.pdf?ua=1

Bloomberg (2019), Healthiest Country Index
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-24/spain-tops-italy-as-world-s-healthiest-nation-while-u-s-slips

Families

#20

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
7
Spain has a very low fertility rate, which is one partial outcome of the timidity of family-support policies and the instability of the labor market. Traditional family patterns (in which mothers focus on household work and childcare duties) have changed rapidly in contemporary Spain, but without any explicit family-support policy, traditional gender roles still keep women in unequal positions. There is a wage and pension-value gap of close to 23% between men and women, and unemployment are disproportionately high among women. According to the National Institute of Statistics, women in Spain dedicate 26.5 hours a week to non-remunerated tasks, compared to just 14 hours for men. Employed women are also more frequently represented in lower-paid occupations, even though women on average have a higher level of education than employed men.

The slow implementation of programs providing care for dependents has made it difficult for women to free themselves of the burden of family care. However, men can benefit from a statutory paternity leave ranging from 13 days to five weeks. The failed 2019 budget included a further increase in paternity leave for men.

Following a significant rise in the incidence of gender-based violence, and after numerous public protests and demonstrations, most political parties (with the exception of the far right Vox party) are determined to tackle gender-based violence. In 2019, a nationwide strike demanding an end to unfair wages and domestic violence was held on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.

Citations:
EC (2019), Report on equality
https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/aid_development_cooperation_fundamental_rights/annual_report_ge_2019_en.pdf

Pensions

#25

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
6
Spanish pension policy achieves the goal of poverty prevention, but meets intergenerational-equity and fiscal-sustainability standards to only a moderate degree. The pension system represents the largest single piece of public spending (more than €120 billion), and pensioners maintained their purchasing power during the crisis years. Moreover, whereas the poverty rate among Spain’s general population is 26%, the rate among the elderly is only 12%. Thus, the elderly are less economically vulnerable than active but unemployed workers, which demonstrates that the current system does not ensure equity across different generations – that is, pensioners, the active labor force and youth. There is no shortage of warnings from within or outside Spain (e.g., the Bank of Spain, IMF and OECD) that the country’s pensions system is heading toward a crisis.

The model (with the exception of private pension plans that are publicly subsidized through favorable tax treatment) is based on a pay-as-you-go methodology that relies on current contributors to the insurance system being able to pay the expenses for the current generation of recipients. However, shifting demographics in combination with longer life expectancies are leading to an unsustainable population pyramid that is worse in Spain than anywhere else in Europe. Moreover, the impact of the crisis reduced the country’s accumulated reserves, with the social-security fund diminishing from €66 billion at its peak to just €1.5 billion in autumn 2019. Consequently, debates over the long-term fiscal sustainability of the social-security system have topped the political agenda. In 2019, several demonstrations by pensioners across Spain added additional urgency to the political debate.

It is very doubtful that the country will be able to maintain a sufficient employment-population ratio or increase productivity enough to compensate for societal aging under the current system. In the 2013 pension reform, a pension revaluation index was introduced, and beginning in 2019, a sustainability factor was to be added linking the level of state pensions to life expectancy. These changes were intended to help the system achieve sustainability in the long run. However, due to societal pressure, the 2018 budget included a 3% increase in the lowest pensions, and a general revaluation of pensions by 1.6% to compensate for inflation. In 2018, the parliamentary committee on public-pension reform agreed to return to the pre-2013 practice of increasing pensions according to the consumer price index, and to eliminate the sustainability factor (or at least delay its introduction until 2023). Attempts to reach an agreement on a reform were torpedoed at the beginning of 2019 when the left-wing party Podemos introduced last-minute amendments to a draft agreement that was being prepared by the so-called Pacto de Toledo congressional committee on pensions reform.

Citations:
Universidad de Extremadura (2018), El incremento de las pensiones contributivas
https://www.willistowerswatson.com/es-ES/press/2018/07/el-incremento-de-las-pensiones-contributivas-con-el-ipc-costara-mas-a-cada-cotizante

Vanguardia, 19/02/2019 El Pacto de Toledo se cierra sin un acuerdo en pensiones a las puertas de las elecciones, https://www.lavanguardia.com/economia/20190219/46575394998/pensiones-pacto-de-toledo-gobierno-elecciones-jubilacion.html

Integration

#5

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
7
Spain ranks 11th out of 38 Western democracies in the latest available edition of the Migrant Integration Policy Index, and is particularly progressive regarding the issues of family reunions and permanent residence. Most immigrants are first-generation, as in the case of Latin Americans, share a common language and cultural links with the native population. Even though the government has taken little action in this area, the population’s degree of tolerance toward immigrants is striking. In a survey conducted in September 2019 by CIS, the country’s official statistics agency, only 11.8% of Spaniards listed immigration as one of their main concerns (15.6% in September 2018). Violent attacks on immigrant groups are very rare, and in contrast to most comparable EU member states. However, in December 2018, the xenophobic populist party Vox won seats in the Parliament of Andalusia, and in the national parliament and other regional parliaments in 2019.

Nevertheless, there is no active policy that has the objective of integrating economic migrants and asylum-seekers into Spanish society. Furthermore, illegal immigrants are frequently housed in prisons due to a lack of room at the Foreigner Internment Centers (Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros). Although the Spanish government supported the EU system for the reallocation of refugees, the number of refugees accepted by Spain during 2019 has been very low. Migratory pressure had been increasing since 2017. Nevertheless, in 2018, the PSOE-government decided to accept humanitarian vessels that had been rejected by Malta and Italy, such as the Aquarius NGO vessel. In 2019, the caretaker PSOE government adopted tougher measures – including pushback policies at the land borders between the Spanish autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, and Morocco – and prevented NGO-run humanitarian ships from sailing to the central Mediterranean. However, Spain is no longer the main Mediterranean route for undocumented migrants, with arrivals falling from 64,298 in 2018 to 24,159 in 2019 mainly due to efforts by the Moroccan authorities.

Citations:
Migrant Integration Policy Index (2015)
http://www.mipex.eu/
El Pais, 17.10.2019 Spanish government reduces irregular immigration by half, https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/10/16/inenglish/1571226785_534397.html

Safe Living

#14

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Internal Security Policy
7
Compared with other OECD countries, Spain performs quite satisfactorily in protecting citizens against security risks and public confidence in the police force is high. The official data shows that violent crimes rate is one of the lowest in the world, although the figures are somewhat higher for assaults or muggings. As the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and Barcelona in 2017 showed, the government of Spain and its citizens are a principal target of jihadist extremism.

Although the share of police officers per capita is among the highest in the world, and the intelligence and police communities have demonstrated their capabilities in terms of fighting terrorism, poor coordination mechanisms among the police forces at the local, regional and national level, as well as politicized intergovernmental relations, reduce the efficiency of the system. During the Catalan conflict, questions of loyalty and trust in the Catalan regional police force were raised. During the protests that followed the Spanish Supreme Court sentencing of Catalan separatist leaders over their roles in the failed secession bid in 2017, the regional police force urged its members to behave in a neutral manner and to avoid taking sides in the conflict.

Although the PSOE-government announced a reform of the law on public safety (Organic Law 4/2015) approved in 2015, the law could not been amended due to the early elections in 2019.

Citations:
Kölling(2019), Spain, in Leuprecht, (ed.), Public Security in Federal Polities, University of Toronto Press.

OECD(2018), Better Life Index, http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/safety/

Global Inequalities

#17

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
7
Budget cuts severely restricted the funding available for policies and instruments designed to enhance Spain’s influence abroad. In 2019, Spain will give just 0.21% of its GDP to official development assistance. The conservative Rajoy government approved the 5th multiannual plan for cooperation policy 2018 – 2021 in 2018, but the plan failed to receive the support of the agents involved, mainly due to the lack of budgetary resources and its lack of specific deadlines. The draft budget for 2019, prepared by the Sánchez government, proposed increasing funding. Though due to political deadlock in 2019, Spain remains a modest donor.

Nonetheless, the PSOE government has made the issue a much greater political priority. A cross-cutting, coordinating structure covering the entire public administration (the High Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda) was created within the Prime Minister’s Office. The new commissioner will promote coherent and proactive international action on behalf of the U.N. Sustainable Developments Goals. Pedro Sánchez also defended the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. During the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly, Spain’s caretaker minister of foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, underlined that the Agenda 2030 is an indispensable roadmap for Spain that will address global challenges and increase Spanish cooperation in the frame of this new strategic vision.

Citations:
Donor Tracker: Spain
http://donortracker.org/c ountry/spain

Government of Spain(2019), Action Plan for 2030 Agenda Implementation. https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/consejodeministros/referencias/Paginas/2018/refc20180629.aspx#AGENDA
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