poverty eradication in Spain
While Spain is officially classified as a high-income country, it is not exempt from unceasingly high rates of poverty. Philip Alston, a U.N. expert, recently commented that poverty rates in Spain are “appallingly high” and among the highest in all of Europe. However, efforts to achieve eventual poverty eradication in Spain are underway.

Context

In 2018, over 26% of people in Spain were at high risk of poverty or social exclusion. Moreover, poverty particularly affected children (minors under the age of 18) — with nearly 33% of them either currently living in poverty, or at-risk. A contributing factor in the lingering poverty within these communities is the perpetuation of social immobility among citizens. According to Forbes, Spanish citizens born into families of wealth earn 40% more than people who are born into low-income households. The opportunities these people have to rise out of poverty on their own are nearly non-existent.

The Spanish government and nonprofit organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the issue of high poverty rates within the country. The government, along with other organizations are employing strategic innovations and other strategies every day to address poverty eradication in Spain. 

Government Innovations & Strategies

In March 2019, the National Strategy to Prevent and Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion passed as a new poverty-reduction movement. With its effective timeline lasting through 2023, the strategy includes four key components: (1) the reduction of current poverty, (2) raising social investment in education and employment, (3) increased social protections for at-risk citizens and (4) improving the effectiveness of public policies surrounding poverty eradication in Spain. This movement serves as an important step for the country’s government because it creates a space to address poverty eradication in Spain on a federal level — catering to the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Spain has recently made vast improvements to its minimum income scheme. With the goal of bringing 1.6 million people out of poverty, the new plan will ensure that families have an income between $514 and $1,130 per month, depending on their eligibility. The social program will take into account the number of children per household, single-parent households, annual income and finally, assets. In the words of Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, this poverty reduction strategy has birthed “a new social right in Spain” and looks to dissolve deeply ingrained social inequalities among its people.

Nonprofit Initiatives

The Spanish government is not the only body taking action to alleviate poverty. Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages are actively working on lifting communities out of poverty. While the organization recognizes that Spain is actively working to address national poverty at large, it believes there is more to do in supporting individual families. Spain has the third highest childhood poverty rate in all of Europe and SOS Children’s Villages primarily targets these vulnerable and at-risk children through their many day centers and homeless villages. In hopes of creating more safe and secure Spanish households, it also focuses on psychological counseling for families and works to aid unemployed citizens in finding work. With ongoing humanitarian work in eight locations within mainland Spain and the Canary Islands, SOS Children’s Villages is an example of an organization that is actively working towards poverty eradication in Spain.

Implications

On both the public (federal) and private levels, Spain is developing new innovations and strategies to address its crippling poverty rates. The government’s plans to improve social programs and safety nets while ensuring income guarantees will potentially affect millions of people in struggling Spanish communities. Supplemented with the aid of nonprofit organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages, the goals of these programs hold promises of a better, more secure future for millions of people.

Karli Stone
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in SpainSpain is a beautiful country with exquisite landscapes and a rich culture. This country is known for its delicious, elaborate dishes such as paella. Healthcare is usually not the first thing that comes to mind when typically thinking about Spain but it definitely should be. Spain is world-renowned for its amazing healthcare coverage and for the way the Spanish citizens are usually able to stay healthy throughout their life.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Spain

  1. Spain is the healthiest country in the world. In 2019, the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index evaluated and ranked over 150 nations based on their life expectancy, environmental factors (ex: access to fresh, clean water) and health risks (ex: obesity). This study gave Spain a grade of 92.75 based on the aforementioned criteria and ranked the Iberian country first out of the listed countries.
  2.  Spain has a free, public healthcare system. Spain’s healthcare system is financed by taxes which means that residents have access to free or very low-cost healthcare, provided they pay for social security. According to HealthManagement.org, 99.7% of the Spanish population takes advantage of the public healthcare system, and only 3% of the population decides to go with the private sector. This is indicative of the Spanish healthcare system’s high quality, as the vast majority of the country decides to be covered by it.
  3. Cancer and circulatory system diseases are among the most common causes of death in Spain. The data found at statistica.com attests that “diseases related to the circulatory system and neoplasms (cancer) ranked as the main causes of death, both with over 100 thousand cases in 2017.” In addition to this, Spaniards also suffer from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
  4. Mental health is taken very seriously in Spain. Taking care of one’s mental health has become a major topic recently, but Spain has always valued the mental health of its citizens. Spain started to realize the importance of mental health in 2006 and has since worked to assist Spaniards with that issue. Spain offers amenities and services including free prescription drugs and has dedicated a portion of its health budget to mental health. For example, according to the WHO, Spain dedicated 5% of its total healthcare budget (6 million euros) to mental health expenditures in the year 2011.
  5. Child healthcare in Spain is taken equally seriously. Along with Spain’s amazing healthcare coverage for adults, this country also offers equally superb healthcare opportunities to children. According to expatica.com, “the healthcare offered to children in Spain includes prenatal and postnatal care, pediatric care up until age 15 (and standard care from a general practitioner afterwards), free vaccinations until age 14, dental care until age 15, access to 23 different types of speciality practitioners, prolonged benefits for children with physical or mental disabilities and free emergency services”.  Evidently, children are taken care of very well in Spain and have access to many amenities and medical opportunities throughout their entire life.

Spain is a country that is home to beautiful landscapes, exquisite cuisine, wonderful people and an amazing healthcare system! It truly earns its spot as one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Spain is a great place to live if someone is looking for a free healthcare system that fully covers all aspects of the medical field.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

A photo of people in the country to represent who hunger in Spain can impact.
With more than 10 years of recovery from the eurozone crisis that was particularly devastating to Spain, the nation’s economy has been relatively successful and demonstrated steady growth. Despite this recovery, Spain’s poverty rate has risen since the crisis. Its unemployment rate is also more than double the EU average, with concerning levels of youth unemployment. Lockdowns due to COVID-19 have only worsened conditions, causing food insecurity for millions of Spaniards. Prior to the pandemic, Spain had maintained a consistent low hunger rate similar to those of other EU countries at just 2.5%. Amid the COVID-19 lockdowns, Spain’s government and outside organizations are trying to help those who have been impacted by hunger in Spain.

The Impact of Lockdowns

Prior to the pandemic, Spain had high poverty or near poverty rates as well as high unemployment rates. While hunger rates had been kept low, there is a fine line between poverty and going hungry.

Since Spain went into lockdown, 1.6 million people have been assisted by The Red Cross in order to feed themselves and their families. This is more than five times the amount helped in 2019. In Madrid, more than 100,00 people are looking to neighborhood charities and government services for aid. The demand for basic necessities has also risen by more than 30% since the pandemic hit.

Governmental Response

In May 2020, Spain’s government, led by Pedro Sanchez, introduced a minimum monthly payment to protect vulnerable families. The plan “will cost around €3 billion per year, will help four out of five people in severe poverty and benefit close to 850,000 households, half of which include children.” Since his election in 2018, the prime minister had spoken of plans to implement this subsidy, but the pandemic accelerated this process.

Accessing Government Aid

Local organizations report that accessing government services is difficult and can be a source of shame for newly affected families. These government systems can also become overwhelmed, thereby more difficult to access. People can also be blocked from registering if they do not have adequate documentation. This leaves charities and neighborhood organizations to provide additional food and supplies for those who cannot access government aid. Foodbank providers also report that an influx of informal economy workers and tourism employees have been turning to food banks since Spain implemented its strict lockdown.

Looking to the Future

The government responded to increased hunger in Spain with subsidies to help citizens put food on the table. However, Spain is also a popular destination for a record number of immigrants, many of whom do not have access to these subsidies due to the lack of documentation. The service industry, which suffered immensely under lockdowns, was also the primary employer of foreigners in Spain. This is where local groups can and are stepping in to make a positive change, trying to reach those who lack access to governmental resources. 

– Elizabeth Stankovits
Photo: Flickr

Unemployment in SpainThe COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families and communities everywhere. Not only have people suffered from the virus itself, but also from the indirect consequences. For example, millions of people have lost their jobs and struggle to provide their loved ones with basic needs. Citizens in wealthy countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan are able to navigate through this pandemic somewhat smoothly. However, the same cannot be said for impoverished people around the world. In particular, poverty and unemployment in Spain are among some of the highest rates in Europe even before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Those who are unemployed in Spain are not alone during this crisis; various NGOs and charities are working together to provide food, face masks and other necessities to those in need. The following article contains information concerning unemployment in Spain as well as how people are being helped amid this global outbreak.

Rising Unemployment in Spain

Now more than ever, unemployment has been on the minds of Spanish men and women during this pandemic. A study conducted by the Center for Sociological Research (CIS) in January 2020 showed that the majority of Spanish citizens consider “unemployment” and “economic problems” to be the most critical issues in their country. The people’s concern about financial hardship is legitimate considering past rates of unemployment in Spain. In the fourth quarter of 2019 (which was before COVID-19 greatly impacted the country), the rate of unemployment in Spain was already incredibly high at 13.78%. It was more than twice as high as the EU’s rate. In particular, young people in Spain have been showing notable unemployment rates: the National Institute of Statistics of Spain recorded unemployment among those below the age of 25 at 30.51% in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Unemployment in Spain is usually high, but COVID-19’s halting effect on many Spanish businesses has worsened rates in a matter of months. Following the country’s emergency lockdown in March, Spain’s unemployment rate rose to 14.8% in April 2020.

3 Spanish Organizations Helping Those in Need

COVID-19 affects those suffering from poverty or unemployment. In response, charities and social organizations in Spain are rallying behind the poor to soften the pandemic’s impact. Here are three prominent organizations in Spain whose motives are to reduce poverty and assist those in need during this global crisis.

  1. Cáritas: Cáritas Española was instituted in 1947 by the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Its objective is to carry out the charitable and social actions of the Church in Spain. Its mission is to promote the development of people, especially the poorest and most excluded. Cáritas has been one of the most impactful NGOs in Spain during the pandemic. The organization’s website has a dedicated section for COVID-19 which includes its relief efforts, COVID-19 statistics and advocacy for government programs aimed toward poverty in Spain. Some of the services Cáritas has provided include face mask-making workshops, hotel rooms for the homeless and disinfection services for assisted living homes.

  2. FESBAL: The Spanish Federation of Food Banks (FESBAL) is an NGO founded in 1996. The organization works to combat hunger and poverty through the reduction of food waste in society. On the FESBAL website, one can choose from three different donation amounts that will go toward groceries for impoverished families throughout Spain who are not able to easily access grocery stores due to mandated shutdowns.

  3. Alberto and Elena Cortina Foundation: The “Alberto y Elena Cortina” Foundation is a Spanish nonprofit charity. It pursues the creation and support of welfare, education and charity in Spain. In April 2020, the foundation worked alongside the Food Bank to distribute fruit to those in need through the country’s municipal markets. This was after a state of emergency was announced in Spain. 

Moving Forward

Most volunteering and social work have been stymied by travel restrictions. However, there are still many ways to help from home. People with internet access and a few dollars can greatly contribute to organizations in Spain assisting those in dire need. Quarantine orders and social distancing may have separated people from one another physically, but empathy and human solidarity are boundless. People can still help by being informed, spreading awareness and supporting organizations that work toward a better future. 

Maxwell Karibian
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Spain
For many, Spain conjures images of sun-soaked beaches, mouthwatering paellas, mesmerizing flamenco dancers or idyllic windmills towering over Don Quixote. However, Spain is more than the stereotypes that attract its many tourists. It is a complex country with pressing social and economic issues. One such issue is the prevalence of homelessness. Although Spain is a developed country, many are living within its borders without a place to call home. Here are nine facts about homelessness in Spain.

9 Facts About Homelessness in Spain

  1. The Spanish Constitution guarantees shelter. Article 47 of the Constitution, ratified in 1978, clearly states that all Spanish citizens have the right to “decent and adequate housing.”
  2. Unfortunately, approximately 0.07% of Spaniards are homeless. Recent surveys on homelessness in Spain estimate the homeless population to be between 23,000 and 35,000 people.
  3. Most Spaniards spend about 20% of their income on housing. Access to safe and stable housing is the prerequisite for avoiding homelessness. The average Spanish worker takes home around 34,000 euros per year, meaning that 6,800 euros would go toward rent. However, in major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, housing prices are steeper.
  4. Homelessness in Spain is increasing. The aftermath of economic and financial crises coupled with growing unemployment have left many unable to pay for adequate housing. The unemployment rate in Spain is now 14.41% and climbing from 13.78% last year. Data from the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that from 2016 to 2018, the average number of people sleeping in homeless shelters increased by 9.5%.
  5. Most homeless people in Spain are men. A survey from 2012 found that 80.3% of homeless Spaniards are men. However, certain cities like Segovia are reporting increased proportions of homeless women.
  6. Negative policy changes are exacerbating the homelessness problem. Many autonomous communities in Spain are making cuts to welfare and homelessness services. The support that remains may be harder for vulnerable Spaniards to access because of more stringent eligibility requirements.
  7. The Spanish capital is especially hard on its homeless population. The Madrid city government has enacted architectural changes making it more difficult for the homeless to sleep in public. For example, there are armrests on benches, sloping benches and spikes on ledges and in doorways. All of these changes are to prevent homeless persons from sleeping outside. These recent changes are likely an effort to protect businesses and tourism in the city.
  8. However, positive policy changes are taking place as well. In 2015, the Spanish government enacted the Comprehensive National Homelessness Strategy. This strategy includes research, an impact study and support for homelessness services in major cities such as Barcelona. In Barcelona, a comprehensive four-year strategy has emerged that emphasizes the recognition of the rights of the homeless, access to healthcare, prevention of overcrowding in homeless shelters and improving the social perception of the city’s homeless.
  9. Certain NGOs are picking up where the government falls short. One such organization is Hogar Sí, a group that uses a housing-first strategy to ensure access to healthcare, right to housing and eradication of hate crimes for the homeless in Spain.

Economic crises and rising housing costs during the last 15 years have left scars that continue to harm Spain’s homeless population. Additionally, the Spanish economy’s dependence on tourism has led some politicians to enact changes that push homeless people away from popular cities, like Madrid. However, the national government is taking steps to combat homelessness, and this will perhaps inspire mayors and leaders of autonomous communities to follow suit.

– Addison Collins 
Photo: Flickr

Innovation Capabilities
Innovation is essential for countries to develop, but there are countless barriers to innovation capabilities. Innovation capabilities are the parts of a production process that people cannot buy but are critical to supporting and driving innovation. Companies must learn and develop these elements. These elements include basic organizational skills, human resource management, planning routines and logistical abilities.

The Importance of Innovation

Without innovation, companies cannot evolve and be sustainable. This, in turn, impacts the progress of whole countries. A lack of innovation leads to people being unable to leverage their resources.

According to the World Bank, many developing countries suffer from low innovation. Low innovation includes the following:

  1. Weaker managerial and technological capabilities and the lack of ability to cultivate them.
  2. Weaker government capabilities.
  3. A general lack of physical, human and knowledge capital.
As a result, developing countries often have a difficult time progressing through innovation. In 1900, many now developed countries were in a similar state to developing countries today. These developed countries were able to capitalize on their innovation capabilities and successfully manage new technologies. This is what developing countries must now do to progress.

Innovative Examples

There are several examples of how developed countries have capitalized on innovation, compared to those still developing:

  1. Brazil was able to upgrade technologically after a slump in its iron industry.
  2. Japan took its textile technologies and modified them for the needs of different locales. It also diversified into machinery, chemicals, cables, metals and banking. This enabled Japan to establish its first leading manufacturing industry.
  3. The United States leveraged its copper resources. It pushed the frontiers of metallurgy and chemistry through a combination of high-level human capital and a network of universities and laboratories.

Developing countries, however, have had trouble reaching the same goals. While Norway was able to leverage its oil and gas deposits with its high-tech sector, Nigeria was not. Spain and Chile were unable to successfully identify and adopt new advances in mining and metallurgy for their copper industries. This eventually leads to these country’s selling out to foreign interests who could.

Production Capabilities: Management and Government

Two subsets of capabilities directly impact innovation including production and technology. Production includes management and government, while technology includes incentives and the environment.

Management focuses on the organization and maintenance of a company. Developing countries tend to have weaker managerial capabilities than developed countries. In these developing countries, managers tend to not have as much education. This greatly impacts their capabilities to properly identify and understand high-return on potential projects, take responsibility for long-term planning and implement new talent.

Limited competition can prop up inefficient companies. A lack of government support, however, makes it difficult for more efficient companies to effectively incentivize their workforce and upgrade their technologies.

A country’s productivity can illustrate an example of the effects of different management practices. There is a 25 percent difference in productivity between developing countries and those in the United States.

Governments organize and support how effectively companies run. In developing countries, governments generally do not have enough human resources or they are unable to efficiently organize policies. The organization, design and implementation of these policies help to rectify market or systemic failures and promote innovation.

These capabilities are the rationale and designing of a policy, efficacy of implementation, comprehensibility for the National Innovation System (NIS) and consistency. Most developing countries, however, are unable to meet these requirements.

Technology and Innovation: Organization and Environment

Governments and management often work to organize companies. It is the organization of the company itself, however, that allows it to implement and expand new technologies. Companies must incentivize workers so they can receive the tasks that make them the most productive. This also empowers workers to brainstorm new ideas and improvements for products or systems.

This type of organization creates an innovation-friendly environment for the company. These incentives show positive influences on creativity and innovation in workers and the company as a whole.

An example of innovation at work is the Aquafresh company in Ghana. It dealt with fierce competition from Asia, eventually discovering that the best way to confront this competition was not to address it at all. Aquafresh started as a clothing company but later reinvented itself, turning to soft drinks. This was possible due to its innovation-friendly environment and organization. This environment eased the transition and sustained them through the change.

Solutions for the Barriers to Innovation Capabilities

Adopting better managerial and organizational practices can push companies to innovate in products, processes and quality. This can also inspire companies to create innovative projects, which can lead to new products and technologies.

Access to human, knowledge and technological capabilities increases a developing country’s innovation potential. This renders foreign aid less important as the countries learn to become self-sustainable.

Companies in developing countries need help with overcoming the barriers to innovation capabilities. If the National Innovation System could focus on supporting companies with better capabilities, investing in higher-level human capital and management and the development of capable governments, a larger innovation system could come into fruition for developing countries. This, in turn, would benefit the entire world.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Education in SpainThe Spanish education system does not match up to the standards of the rest of Europe or other developed nations. However, the government is doing its best to put measures in place aimed at improving these standards. Below are eight facts about education in Spain:

8 Facts About Education in Spain

  1. The current system of education in Spain, also known as the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE), or the Fundamental Law of Education, means that education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. This system also typically requires parents to pay for books and other materials such as uniforms.
  2. It is estimated that as of 2016, 98.3 percent of the population in Spain is literate. This is largely attributable to the 10 years of compulsory education.
  3. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport generally oversees education in Spain. However, each of the 17 autonomous regions in the country can make most of the decisions regarding their systems.
  4. Schools are categorized in three ways, there are state schools that are fully funded by the state, privately-run schools which are funded partly by the state and partly by private investors and purely private schools. A majority of Spanish students, 68 percent to be exact, attend state schools. This compares to only 6 percent of students who attend purely private schools.
  5. There are four levels of education in Spain. The first is a nursery or preschool, which is optional. Next comes six years of primary, which is the first stage of compulsory education, followed by compulsory secondary education for four years. Finally, there is an optional level of upper secondary education. At the primary level, the average number of students per class is around 25. While in secondary, the average number of students per class is around 30.
  6. A 2019 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Spain experiences more class time than both the European Union and OECD averages. The difference is more pronounced in high school, where Spain’s class time per year is 1,045 hours. This compares to the EU average of 893 hours, while the OECD average consists of 910 hours. This doesn’t seem to have any positive outcome, considering Spanish students perform worse on average than other students regarding the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. PISA experts believe the problem lies in the teaching methods, as Spanish students tend to memorize information instead of trying to find their own solution to problems.
  7. From pre-primary to secondary education, the enrollment rate was above 90 percent at each level in 2017. However, for tertiary education, the enrollment rate falls to 88.85 percent during the same period. Again, this is attributable to the fact that tertiary education is neither compulsory nor free. Interestingly, more girls than boys enrolled at each stage of education. This includes a marked difference at the tertiary level where the enrolment rate for females is 97 percent compared to 81 percent for males.  However, Spain also faces the greatest number of school dropouts in the EU.
  8. The government expenditure on education has steadily declined since 2009, including spending of 4.87 percent of the GDP on education, compared to 4.21 percent in 2016. This puts makes Spain on the tail-end of European countries when it comes to governmental education spending

While there are positives surrounding education in Spain, the situation requires additional efforts. With increased investment by the government and improved policies, schools will be able to afford more resources, hire more teachers and reduce the ratio of students to teachers. In doing so, students can receive more personalized attention and a better academic experience. Further, this will improve the quality of education and possibly reduce the time spent by students in the class. Finally, these enhancements will likely decrease the unemployment rate and greatly improve the quality of life in Spain.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

African Immigration to Spain
While Eastern and Central Europe have been dealing with the brunt of the refugee crisis—thanks to conflicts in Syria and the rest of the Middle East—Western Europe is far from unaffected. However, a large number of immigrants in Spain originate from West Africa, and they come to Spain for a variety of different reasons; both as refugees, and in search of economic opportunity unavailable to them in their home countries. This article takes a look at the causes of African immigration to Spain, as well as the living conditions immigrants experience in their new host country.

Five Questions and Answers

1. Why are People from Western and Central Africa Leaving their Home Countries?

The short answer is a variety of reasons. While the overall volume of immigrants to Europe has dropped to pre-2015 levels, African immigration to Spain is still spurred by more than just garden-variety economic migration—though that certainly still plays a large role. The reasons for migration vary greatly by gender, with most men emigrating for economic reasons while most women are leaving due to threats of violence.

2. Why Spain?

Spain has a labor shortage and is more welcoming to migrants than other European countries. While geography is a major factor in emigration from Spain to Africa (the Strait of Gibraltar is slightly over seven nautical miles from the African mainland to Spain), Spain has—until very recently—been a notable exception to the anti-immigrant sentiment overtaking much of Europe. The current Spanish government is center-left, with over 80 percent of adult poll respondents saying that they would be in favor of taking in irregular refugees. New agricultural sectors in the south of Spain—mainly greenhouse farming—have also created an unskilled economy that few Spaniards find attractive, but looks promising to refugees.

3. How do Immigrants get There?

Refugees arrive in Spain either by the Spanish enclaves in Morocco or the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. The most immediate destination for African immigration to Spain is the enclave city of Ceuta, which is politically Spanish and geographically Moroccan but is governed more or less autonomously, like Catalonia or the Basque Country. Some also arrive via ship, in the infamously choppy Mediterranean. The first decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration was to admit the Aquarius, a ship of more than 600 migrants, into Spain after Italy turned it away.

4. What Kind of Life is Waiting for Immigrants Once they Arrive?

“Nobody talks about what it’s really like.” Many of the African migrants in Spain live in the southern regions, doing seasonal agricultural work. This is especially true for the men who emigrated to Spain for economic reasons, trying to send money back home to their loved ones. Despite the supposed greater economic opportunity that comes from a Eurozone nation, many of the African migrants in Spain live in ramshackle chabolas, makeshift shacks comprised of wood and plastic leftover from agricultural scrap. In these settlements, more migrants have mobile phones than access to a toilet or kitchen.

5. Is Spain’s Generosity Towards Migrants Coming to an End?

The short answer is yes. The majority of African immigration to Spain comes through Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, but the path of many migrants does not end there. Recently, Spain has come under fire from other European leaders for being the exception to an otherwise-ubiquitous tight border policy, which has put pressure on the Spanish government to somehow stem the tide. In response, Spain has outsourced its border security to Morocco, the country that processes most migrants to Spain. This has alarmed left-leaning political groups and human rights NGOs, who claim that Morocco’s human rights record is inadequate.

While Spain has upheld the Sanchez government’s initial promise of being more accepting of migrants, large-scale African immigration to Spain and pressure from other European leaders has prompted a tightening of the flow of migrants through Morocco and the Mediterranean. While the conditions African migrants find in Spain are far from luxurious, the work is good enough for them to continue to migrate. What Spain ultimately decides to do in regard to the influx of immigrants from Africa could either continue to serve as a lone exception to the rest of Europe or join the continent in its increasing anxiety over immigration.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in Spain
Spain is a simultaneous representative of both the success and the struggles of twenty-first
century Europe. The Spanish economy was hit particularly hard by the 2008 recession that sent shockwaves throughout global markets. As a result, Spain, along with Greece and Italy, has often been cited as an example of the straining of Eurozone economics. Though Spain remains firmly a developed country, the country’s struggle with poverty should not be overlooked. Here are nine important facts about poverty in Spain.

Nine Facts About Poverty in Spain

  1. Over one-quarter (26.6 percent) of the Spanish population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion as of 2017. These results do also show, however, that this number has fallen from a peak of 29.4 percent in 2014.
  2. Spain has the highest youth poverty rate (.221) in Western Europe. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization, Spain sits ahead of both its neighbors, Portugal and Italy, and is even ahead of its Mediterranean counterpart Greece.
  3. Nearly 40 percent of Spain’s youth labor force were unemployed in 2017. This number is compared to a 9.2 percent in the Euro Area.
  4. Poverty in Spain is concentrated in rural areas. A chart published by a Spanish statistical website compares the different regions of Spain based on their per capita GRP (gross regional product) or PIB in Spanish. In general, the more rural provinces, such as Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha and Andalucía, have a lower GRP than the Basque country, Madrid and Catalonia. The poorest households in Spain are those of young, inexperienced foreigners who live in southern Spain.
  5. The migrant crisis has put a strain on Spanish support systems. The New York Times reports that over 20,000 migrants have reached Spain by sea in 2018. This has put added pressure on the migrant support systems and increased the population of those in need of assistance.
  6. About 34.4 percent of Spanish households were unable to afford a week-long vacation in 2017 according to data compiled by the National Statistics Institute, a Spanish government agency. This is down, however, from 45.8 percent when the study began in 2013.
  7. Unemployed Spaniards are gaining employment via temporary or part-time jobs. Now that Spain’s economy is rebounding, many new jobs have been created and, although temporary, they may help ease the poverty of previously unemployed Spaniards.
  8. Spanish youths are the beneficiaries of the European Commission’s Youth Guarantee program. This program has the mission of ensuring that all of Europe’s young people have “a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship and traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.” This program, among others like it, hopes to reduce youth unemployment and a more employed workforce may mean a reduction in poverty.
  9. Spain is now recovering well from the 2008 recession. According to a 2017 article by the New York Times, the economy of Spain is growing roughly at three percent, is producing goods for export and “is restoring a sense of normalcy” to the country. With this growth, the unemployment rate is expected to decline as per the European Commission’s forecast for 2018.

In Spain, the reduction of poverty and economic recovery in the wake of the 2008 recession represent great strides for a long-troubled economy. These facts about poverty in Spain show that more people in the country are working, and there are more and more jobs being created. These strides must not be undervalued. However, continued efforts in Spain are needed to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for all.

– William Menchaca

Photo: Flickr

Growing Up in Exile: Who is Monique Macías?Who is Monique Macías? Currently an author, Monique Macías was one of the only foreign students at the prestigious Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea. Now out of exile and in her 40s, Monique Macías often depicts her unconventional upbringing as a black African adolescent in articles and memoirs.

Born in Equatorial Guinea in 1970, only two years after the country gained independence from Spain, her father, Francisco Macías Nguema, was the small country’s first elected president. As a new president, Macías sought to form relationships with leaders of other countries such as North Korean President Kim Il-sung.

Monique Macías stated that her father and Kim Il-sung became fast friends because they had “a lot in common”, pointing out that “both fought against colonial powers and both built their support base through nationalism.”

Regardless, Francisco Macías had a short term due to a series of illegal acts he implemented through the Equatorial Guinean government. In the late 1970s. Francisco Macías was overthrown as president of Equatorial Guinea and tried for numerous crimes including genocide, embezzlement and treason. Francisco Macías was executed by firing squad in the late 1970s.

Foreseeing his exile and later execution, Franciso Macías sent his three children to North Korea to live and receive an education. Monique Macías, along with her sister and brother, attended Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea, where they learned to shoot Kalashnikov rifles and participated in daily physical drills that involved running and climbing.

Formerly an all-boys school, the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School made a new class for Macías and her sister as an exception. The special treatment often led other students to ask: who is Monique Macías and why do she and her siblings deserve preferential treatment? Macías was not too young to recognize the special treatment that she and her siblings received in Pyongyang:

“[We] were the only Korean-speaking long-term foreign residents during that period. We lived a privileged lifestyle compared to other foreign students and the majority of North Korean people. Throughout those years Kim Il-sung stayed in regular contact with us…”

Macias lived in exile in Pyongyang for 15 years before relocating in 1994.

So, who is Monique Macías outside of exile? Still affected by the conditions in which she spent her formative years, Macías continues to author memoirs and articles about her incredibly unconventional childhood and discusses how living in Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Spain and the United States informed her opinions of the North Korean regime.

“There are people in North Korea who know that this is not the right way to live,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “I don’t think it’s going to collapse easily.”

However, Monique Macías does not shy away from defending the country that took her in upon her father’s death and formed her childhood:

“I have found that Western media normally just focuses on nuclear issues, politics or human rights. Together, all this makes people think that North Korea is an evil country and that its people are simply robots….But having lived there, I am proof that all of these things are not always true.”

In the 2000s, Monique Macías published her memoir “I’m Monique, From Pyongyang” in Korean.

Photo: Flickr