COVID-19’s Impact on Spain
With the emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic, several countries have faced significant economic challenges. One such country is Spain, which experienced its first recorded COVID-19 case in January 2020, and since then has recorded more than 13 million cases.

Large numbers of COVID-19 cases within Spain have caused strict lockdown protocols within the country, in turn slowing Spain’s booming tourism industry and economic development. Spain lost its large influx of tourists due to COVID-19, and it experienced a surge in unemployment levels and a significant decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Here is some information about COVID-19’s impact on Spain.

COVID-19’s Impact on Spain

In March 2020, all 50 provinces of Spain confirmed COVID-19 cases. Accordingly, the Spanish government responded to the spread of the virus by placing the country into lockdown and declaring a state of emergency.

In response to the second wave of infections, Spain subsequently imposed further COVID-19 restrictions. This meant that schools, restaurants and all services that the government deemed non-essential had to close down in an effort to mitigate and control the spread of the virus.

Despite efforts to reduce transmission of the virus, the mortality rate in Spain kept increasing. Since the detection of the first case in Spain, the country has reported around 107,799 deaths from a sum of 12,681,820 cases.

Employment and Standards of Living

Spain’s unemployment rate prior to the pandemic stood at around 14%, whereas by late 2020, it was an estimated 16.2%. COVID-19’s impact on Spain was significant for those already living in poverty. The rise of the global pandemic exposed such individuals to further exacerbated food insecurity and a significant loss of income. As a result, thousands of people in Spain ended up facing economic hardship and an inability to afford adequate amounts of food. According to European Anti Poverty Network, around 380,000 people fell into poverty in 2021. This trend also impacted the educated class of society, significantly affecting economic security among the general Spanish population.

Another report by Human Rights Watch indicated that COVID-19 impacted food security in Spain. Families have been unable to satisfy nutritional support for their kids. According to the report, despite government efforts to alleviate the impact of COVID-19, the economic decline continued to worsen and has meant that families had to skip meals.

Lingering Impact and Recovery

COVID-19’s impact on Spain has undoubtedly exacerbated economic hardship for Spain’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. Spain’s severe material deprivation rate, which measures the degree of poverty reflected in an inability to satisfy basic necessities, climbed to 7% in 2020.

COVID-19’s impact on Spain placed a strain on Spain’s social assistance programs and social security networks, highlighting the complexities and shortcomings of these systems. As Spain’s tourism sector and its overall economy continue to recover from its losses, the war between Russia and Ukraine poses a new threat to Spain’s economy and is likely to further financially challenge Spain’s vulnerable and poor populations.

Despite Spain’s challenges, its government is in the process of implementing an economic recovery plan. The intention of Spain’s recovery plan is to return to the robust economy and unemployment level that Spain had prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spain’s governmental plan encompasses 112 investments and 102 reforms. The plan’s reforms aim to promote sustainable economic growth across the country, and a central focus of the plan is building a resilient economy.

– Dylan Priday
Photo: Unsplash

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Spain
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused mayhem across the globe over the past few years and the virus, alongside its health, social and economic implications, has effectively left no corner of the world untouched. Even wealthier nations within Europe, like Spain, have had their fair share of setbacks thanks to the pandemic. Thankfully, however, this nation has been blessed with an equipped and responsive government as well as various charitable corporations and NGOs, who have made it their mission to see the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain be negligible.

Early Action

Much like other affluent countries, Spain implemented a Royal Decree-Law 11/2020 at the beginning of the pandemic to counteract the widespread loss of both jobs and income. This was most certainly a vital measure when considering the following.

In 2020, the unemployment rate shot up to 16.5% as a consequence of government lockdowns. Contrast this rate with the 14% seen at the beginning of the year. It quickly became evident that over a million Spaniards were at risk of no longer being able to afford essentials like housing, food and other things of the sort. In other words, the potential impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain was a huge concern.

The nation was reporting more than 8,000 new COVID-19 cases a day at the beginning of the pandemic and thus the Spanish congress understood that they could not carry on business as usual and that they needed to restrict societal mobility via the closing of non-essential stores and businesses, halting commerce and slashing over 600,000 jobs.

Regarding the Royal Decree, officials took it one step further, going as far as to pause rent payments for the financially vulnerable so that there would be no immense backlog of fees at the conclusion of the eviction suspension.

This bold step caused evictions to decrease by 90% in the second quarter of 2020. Another noteworthy form of aid was the introduction of Universal Basic Income (UBI) for the nation’s most impoverished, an unprecedented move not attempted in any other region of the world. Nearly a million qualified for payments that equated to about €1,015.

Supplementary income had benefited roughly 22% of the Spanish population during the virus’ initial wave, helping keep families fed and stable in a time full of such great instability.

The Private Sector

The public response was not the only combatant to the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain that deserves praise. Private industry also stepped up in the wake of Spain’s Coronavirus crisis, with numerous companies and organizations making it their priority to keep communities both secure and safe during a moment of impending doom.

CAF, for instance, a popular development bank in Latin America, decided to donate $600,000 to Spain and its neighbor Portugal to assist them in their fight against COVID-19 and its ramifications. Consequently, about 25,000 Spanish families gained access to medical supplies that were otherwise out of reach.

Closer to home, big corporate names like Siegwerk donated to established and dependable charities like Banco de Alimentos and Caritas, which have a long track record of helping ease the hunger of countless Spaniards. Thanks to donations like these, Caritas was able to assist many vulnerable people and families in obtaining their basic necessities like shelter and food.

What Does This Mean for the Rest of the World?

The innovative and generous government response to the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain as well as the sympathetic actions of large corporations leaves the world with a lot to be hopeful for. Despite the complete shuttering of the economy, the amount of Spaniards at risk of poverty only increased from 20.7% in January 2020 to 21% in December 2020, making it appear as though the COVID-19 catastrophe never actually happened. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Spain was fairly minimal because officials were able to put their constituents first and profit-driven companies were able to overlook their finances for the general welfare. Given such dynamics, it seems the ideals of humanity are no longer too far out of reach.

No one in Spain would be willing to proclaim COVID-19 a blessing with its toll on the economy and human life, but as the old saying goes: “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade” and that is precisely what this European nation has accomplished.

– Jacob Lawhern
Photo: Flickr

Elderly poverty in SpainMillions of tourists visit Spain each year, experiencing the country’s rich culture and beautiful architecture. On the surface, Spain might seem like a perfect place, an escape from everyday hardship. But, deeper down, the country is not immune from economic troubles as poverty marches through Spain. The nation’s problem with poverty is especially relevant for the country’s senior citizens. Elderly poverty in Spain threatens the well-being of the nation’s seniors, and recent events might exacerbate this problem.

The Current Problem

Most recently, people in Spain are experiencing higher poverty rates due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences. Although the nation’s pension system works to keep millions of older people out of poverty, it is still critical to recognize poverty’s impact on the most vulnerable elders.

Even though state-provided pensions help curtail old-age poverty, 20.5% of Spanish seniors are at risk of poverty and exclusion. Many elders receive incomes below the poverty threshold, which leads to unnecessary hardship for the aging population. Spain’s social safety net is a helpful tool in the war against poverty. However, many elders still lack adequate resources to thwart economic hardship completely.

It is worth noting that Spain is doing relatively well compared to the rest of the world. The Global AgeWatch Index ranked Spain as the 25th best nation for elders’ social and economic well-being in 2015. Additionally, only 9.4% of individuals aged over 65 live in relative income poverty in Spain compared to 13.5% for the average OECD nation.

Gender Inequities

Spain’s problem with old-age poverty might appear relatively better off than many other nations. However, there are entrenched inequities, particularly those based on gender.

There are 10.6% of older Spanish women with income poverty rate. Compared to 7.8% of men, this gender gap persists despite any progress to reduce elderly poverty. Two primary contributors to this discrepancy are women’s, on average, lower lifetime earnings and higher life expectancy, according to OECD.

Changing Demographics

Interestingly, elderly poverty in Spain is lower than the poverty rate for the total population, which stands at 15.5%, according to the OECD. In this case, while one might think that Madrid may shift its attention to the poverty facing young adults, the well-being of elders faces a precarious trajectory given changes in demographics.

Spain’s life expectancy is on the rise with an average of 84 years, three years higher than the OECD average. Its fertility rate is also reaching new lows with only 1.2 births per woman. The nation’s high life expectancy and low fertility rates work in tandem to spell out a disaster for old-age poverty. A growing population of elders threatens the stability of old-age pensions since fewer workers will be supporting the elder safety net. With a lower ratio of workers to retirees, the Spanish economy will suffer trying to keep up with the burden of paying for more expensive social insurance.

These changing demographics will have a disproportionate impact on its rural residents. With more elders in Spain’s rural towns and villages, the fight to eliminate old-age poverty tackles a new obstacle: an isolated aging population.

Rural areas already have reduced access to stable health infrastructure and as senior residents get older, many Spaniards will be unable to drive to necessary facilities, according to the European Anti Poverty Network. This inequity in access forewarns higher poverty rates, lower well-being and increased social isolation for vulnerable elders. Without easily accessible resources, rural Spanish elders will suffer.

Novel Threats

The COVID-19 pandemic pinpointed the weaknesses in Spain’s care for the elderly. Notably, many hospitals refused to provide care for seniors and many nursing homes lacked the resources to navigate the pandemic.

Even though COVID-19 cases have fallen from their peak, pandemic-related issues may aggravate elderly poverty in Spain. The resulting economic instability risks growing inflation, diluting the purchasing power of elders.

Spain’s inflation reached 10.2% in June 2022 and this high number does not bode well for senior citizens. Higher inflation weakens the purchasing power of government-paid pensions for the elderly, which may reverse the tide in reducing old-age poverty.

Crafting Solutions

The news on Spain’s poverty rate may seem bleak, however, the public and private sectors could help present new solutions to continue mitigating old-age poverty. Reducing elderly poverty in Spain could emerge from a wide array of tactics. For instance, the government could increase investments in the social safety net, ensuring higher purchasing power for elders receiving pensions.

Additionally, new independent initiatives could target increasing accessibility to proper resources by bridging the digital divide and expanding access to high-quality health infrastructure to safeguard elders from falling into poverty. The next steps in this fight could aim to combat inequities in elderly poverty, especially for women and rural residents.

The work of non-governmental organizations like United Way Spain offers hope for Spain’s impoverished elderly. Starting in 2016, United Way Spain aids the country’s most vulnerable citizens with projects focused on education, health and employability. The organization’s MENCÍA Program operates to combat elder loneliness, bringing in volunteers to accompany seniors, assist in daily tasks and foster intergenerational connections.

Working exclusively on the local level, United Way Spain is bettering the lives of its most vulnerable elders by crafting new initiatives to advance the prosperity of its elders.

Even though Spain may already be ahead of most of the world in tackling elderly poverty, many efforts are still needed to eradicate global poverty. Supporting the work of an NGO like United Way Spain showcases one of the many ways to get involved in the fight against elderly poverty.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Unsplash

Water Crisis in Spain
The water crisis in Spain has come about due to recurring droughts as a result of the effects of extreme weather conditions that contribute to increasing temperatures in the peninsula. In 2019, the Spanish association La Unión de Uniones de Agricultores y Ganaderos faced losses of  €1.5 billion as a consequence of droughts. In the same year, the Spanish Health Ministry discovered that 67,050 samples from different water sources around the peninsula were not safe for drinking.

Uncovering the Water Crisis in Spain

According to an article by The Water Project, in general, a lack of clean water reduces the likelihood of low-income families escaping the cycle of poverty. Illnesses due to the consumption of unsafe water reduce a person’s energy and productivity, which means children cannot attend school and adults cannot work to earn an income.

Within the Castilla y León region of Spain, villagers struggle to access drinking water as agricultural pollution has affected water supplies, deepening the water crisis in Spain. Villagers have to walk to the main city centers to obtain bottled water to complete essential daily activities, such as brushing their teeth and cooking. In Castilla y León, in March 2021, about 63 municipalities did not have “running water.”

Effects of the Water Crisis in Spain

According to research by Kemira, a company dedicated to providing sustainable chemical solutions for water-intensive industries, water reuse is the best way to address the water crisis in Spain. Water reuse, “the use of purified water from municipal sewage treatment plants for different purposes,” can lower the current cost of desalination plants as Spain can recycle water for agricultural use. The OECD has said that around 67% of Spain’s water usage goes toward agriculture, and in Southeastern Spain, water use for agriculture “rises to as much as 85-90%.”

The dire water crisis is visible in the national park of Las Tablas de Daimiel, a wetland that has dried up in the last three years. As a result, many of the aquatic species living in the wetland have disappeared, marking the effects of the Spanish water crisis. In fact, in 2009, “subterranean peat fires broke out” due to the increasingly dry temperatures, decreasing the once 500 kilometers of wetland into 30 kilometers.

An article by The Guardian states the water crisis in Spain began in the 1970s when the Spanish government decided to turn the Spanish cities of Murcia and Almería in the Southeast of Spain — an area where water is minimal and none of the major rivers flow — “into Europe’s market garden.” As a solution to lacking water, the government chose to “transfer water from the headwaters of the Tagus through almost 300km of pipeline to irrigate” the area.

But, this only served to exacerbate “unsustainable intensive agriculture” leading to “the exploitation of groundwater, with disastrous environmental consequences.” In August 2021, in the Mar Menor saltwater lagoon in Murcia, “thousands of dead fish” showed the consequences of unsustainable agriculture and “fertilizer polluting the groundwater that drains into the sea.”

The Government’s Solution

The Spanish government recognized the situation as unsustainable for the country’s future, prompting it to begin a five-year water plan “to conform with the European standards on water quality” that will apply in 2027. Announced in June 2021, Spain’s five-year Hydrological Plan for the period 2022-2027 will “prioritize the uses of water, manage large floods and droughts and define ecological flows that ensure the protection of waters and their ecosystem.”

In addition, the plan includes “reducing the pressures that the water masses support, improving the purification systems, promoting water-saving and reuse and meeting the demands for water in a way that is compatible with its good condition.” The plan also involves cuts in the quantity of water transferred from the Tagus river to the Southeast region of Spain.

As Spain implements the five-year Hydrological Plan, there is hope that the water crisis in Spain will reach a resolution.

– Nuria Diaz
Photo: Max Pixel

La Caixa Fights Global Poverty
La Caixa is a savings bank set in Spain that originally began as a private institution in 1904 to provide people with retirement help and disability insurance. Shortly after, savings also became a specialty of the institution. La Caixa started to grow as it “promoted an ambitious, professional concept of management,” which set the bank apart from other institutions. The institution also aimed to help impoverished people “achieve a measure of financial independence and security.” It is in this way that La Caixa fights global poverty.

La Caixa’s Beginnings

The initial aim of the establishment was to attempt to stop or at least decrease financial exclusion as much as possible. After 1917, La Caixa truly began projects to benefit the community. Then, in 1918, La Caixa made a decision to include “community work” into the organization in order to ensure that community projects receive “professional and efficient management.” La Caixa saw this as more than just charitable work, but rather, a means of “providing civic, cultural and social welfare services [to improve] people’s quality of life.”

La Caixa’s Projects

In 2021, La Caixa gave funding to four innovative biomedical projects. One of the projects is a strategy that CiQUS of the University of Santiago de Compostela and the CSIC developed to combat “resistance and recurrence” in cancer stem cells. A second one is a novel medicine based on pyruvic acid that targets cancer stem cells to combat resistance and recurrence.

Furthermore, La Caixa is shifting toward poverty-focused projects as the World Bank reports that COVID-19 has pushed 97 million people into poverty, with numbers only increasing. To address the impacts of COVID-19, La Caixa is dedicating more than €750,000 to support the humanitarian initiatives of Spanish organizations in developing nations. Through this funding, La Caixa has committed to “the fight against poverty and inequalities through initiatives that improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable populations.”

La Caixa has chosen 19 programs to support in this regard. These projects have three focal areas: “socio-economic development, health improvement and promotion of education and training.” The diverse goals of these projects range from improving access to education to women’s empowerment and preventing and treating visual afflictions.

La Caixa’s Support in Portugal

COVID-19 hit Portugal severely, pushing 400,000 new people into poverty. The majority of those most COVID-19 affected “were already in the lower half of the income distribution” even before the onset of COVID-19, causing inequality to intensify further. This prompted La Caixa to begin the Social Observatory of the La Caixa Foundation project in Portugal with the goal to “[diagnose]the social reality in the social, educational and cultural areas.” With this information, organizations like La Caixa fights global poverty by making more informed decisions in implementing programs.

A Focus of Child Poverty

Child poverty is a particular focus area of La Caixa. La Caixa recognizes that, without intervention, generational cycles of poverty are challenging to break. To break these cycles of poverty, La Caixa’s programs focus on social development, skills training and education for children and their families. Through the collaborative work of more than 400 organizations, the program is able to offer services such as “educational family workshops,” mental health services and nutritional education. The program is also able to offer assistance in securing school resources and “glasses and hearing aids.” The program was able to support more than 35,000 families in 2020 and more than 58,000 children.

Partnering with UNHCR

La Caixa fights global poverty through its partnership with the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which it has worked with since 2002. In 2017, the partners directed their focus to Ethiopia, beginning the MOM project to decrease child mortality rates and improve nutrition among “children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in refugee camps.” The strategy of the MOM project is to use technological innovation to provide assistance in emergency humanitarian situations.

The Impacts of the MOM Project

  • More than 80,000 people received assistance, specifically vulnerable mothers and children.
  • A 47% decrease in acute malnutrition.
  • A 60% reduction in severe acute malnutrition.
  • A 23% decrease in anemia in children.
  • A 36% improvement in infant mortality.

With all these accomplishments behind its name, La Caixa still intends to reach more milestones. With each and every project, La Caixa helps to bring generational cycles of poverty to an end and improve the quality of life of citizens across the world.

– Noya Stessel
Photo: Flickr

Spain’s Housing CrisisIn October 2021, government officials in Spain made it their primary mission to combat the ever-increasing rent prices across the country. Governmental officials are tackling this issue by increasing rent-control efforts nationwide. This goal will impact the number of private equity landlords operating in Spain and address Spain’s housing crisis.

What are Private Equity Companies and Landlords?

Private equity companies, more commonly referred to as private equity firms (PEFs), are designed strictly for investment management. PEFs are companies investing in other companies. PEFs strictly buy and sell stocks in private companies on other private corporations’ behalfs to generate income and revenue from the sales of stocks. PEF investments are not made in the public market, but rather, in private firms to potentially increase the amount of money made as a return on investment.

Private equity landlords are corporate landlords that PEFs invest in. This places additional pressure on landlords to make a profit and increase returns for PEFs. Therefore, on top of the money earned in rental prices and the fees incurred through home management as part of rentals, there is a cycle of continuously increasing rents to make more money for PEFs.

Housing Crisis in Spain

Spain’s housing crisis has been an issue since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes it has undergone include drastic rent hikes and lack of home availability in certain regions. The main reason is that many did not feel safe living in congested cities and have attempted to vacate the cities and buy or find home rentals elsewhere.

Spanish citizens have struggled to find affordable housing in a nation with 21% of the population at risk of poverty as of 2020. Furthermore, roughly 7% of Spanish families live in severe poverty, according to El Pais.

To top everything off, the hike in rental prices averages 50% over five years. However, prices exceeded a 60% jump between 2014-2017 in Madrid and Barcelona. Comparatively, wages in Spain have increased by 1.6% on average. This is driving income inequality and presenting challenges in affording and maintaining rental housing. Housing in Spain has become a burden for many due to the influence of private equity companies on rental prices.

During the pandemic, with the lack of growth in wages nationwide and increased hikes in rental costs, Spanish law mandated that no evictions could take place. Nevertheless, in some areas, such as Ciutat Mediriana, evictions continued. Spain’s housing crisis left people on the street with no way to access affordable housing.

Private Equity Landlords in Spain

Blackstone, a PEF based in the United States, has investments in 30,000 homes across Spain. Blackstone opened housing rental investment opportunities in Spain in 2013. It has not slowed its increases in Spanish housing rental prices since. The return on investments for Blackstone in Spain hit all-time highs for the PEF as it has increased rent prices year after year. The significant returns for Blackstone due to the increased rent prices are costing individuals more than 30% of their income.

Spain’s housing crisis does not have an overnight solution. However, the bill that Spain’s left-leaning officials proposed could fix the problem to some extent. According to Euronews, if Spain implements the bill, it will place rental price caps on any rental company with more than 10 rental homes, effectively strengthening rent control.

About Rent Control

Rent control boosts the economy because it diversifies investments in the public and private sectors. Spain’s housing crisis leaves little opportunity for spending money outside of rental affordability. This leaves other economic sectors falling behind and losing strength over time.

Rent control helps individuals living in lower-income situations keep their housing for longer and more secure periods of time. Landlords are also guaranteed filled buildings when rent prices do not increase and overburden their tenants. Rent control reduces homelessness and evictions, consequently keeping people in their homes and effectively reducing poverty rates.

The bill that the Spanish government proposed to cap rent price increases also benefits the landlords through reduced taxation, giving them the incentive to support the rental caps. This bill could mean diversification of businesses and enhanced opportunities for localized businesses or landlords to combat the PEFs and boost the local economy.

The PEFs in Spain drove rental prices beyond easy affordability for many. Spain’s housing crisis is out of control as a result. This bill could reduce homelessness and poverty. It could boost the economy through localized diversification of business and investments and give Spanish citizens chances to find new homes.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Renewable energy in SpainIn 2018, Spain announced its goals of deriving 75% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, and by 2050, increasing this renewable energy reliance to 100%. Within two years, Spain rethought its entire energy consumption pattern and transitioned to generating 43.6% of its energy renewably by 2020. Along with producing more sustainable and efficient energy, renewable energy in Spain also helps reduce poverty throughout the country.

5 Ways Renewable Energy in Spain Reduces Poverty

  1. Providing Clean Energy Jobs. In 2018, Spain made its first step toward renewable energy by closing coal mines and redirecting mining employees to clean energy jobs. Former coal mine employees were re-trained for jobs focusing on solar and wind power. The construction of renewable plants is providing jobs as well. By 2019, the switch to renewable energy in Spain created approximately 90,000 jobs in the sector. Enel Green Power’s Totana Solar Plant gave preference for employment to locals and provided training for the unemployed. The shutdown of coal mines did not bring about hardship to the country as new jobs were created through the transition to renewable energy, benefiting the entire nation.
  2. Lowering Energy Prices. Typically, renewable energy is more costly than conventional energy because it involves far less production. However, with the increased demand for renewable energy in Spain, renewable energy prices are dropping. Renewable energy also saves money in the long term due to its efficiency and sustainability. Experts estimate that the switch to renewable energy will save the average household €210 per year.
  3. Renewable Energy Tax Reform. Spain also uses taxes as an incentive to push renewable energy. Specifically, in 2019, Spain dropped its “sun tax,” which charged for self-consumption of solar energy and sharing of solar power. The sun tax made sustainable energy more expensive, essentially serving as a barrier in the renewable energy transition.
  4. Helping Economic Growth. As with the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic hurt Spain’s economy considerably. Spain’s economy contracted by 11% in 2020, “the biggest contraction since the days of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s.” Furthermore, the unemployment rate reached 16.1%, affecting tourism-dependent industries the most. In the wake of the economic consequences of COVID-19, renewable energy provides a way to stimulate the economy. In September 2020, Spain allocated €181 million to renewable energy in order to increase jobs, investment and affordable electricity access. As such, renewable energy is part of COVID-19 relief in Spain and will help repair the economy.
  5. Reducing Energy Poverty. Overall, energy poverty impacts “between 3.5 and 8.1 million citizens” in Spain. The definition of energy poverty is a lack of “access to affordable, safe, sustainable and modern energy.” Energy poverty can occur because of the inability to afford energy or because of the lack of energy availability in certain areas. With renewable energy replacing conventional energy, however, energy is not only becoming more affordable but the efficiency of renewable power makes it more widely available.

Looking to the Future

Spain’s new energy plan has greatly contributed to the decrease in both carbon emissions and poverty. Currently, the country is inching closer to the 50% mark of renewable energy reliance. The Spanish nation is following its plan closely and is set to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

– Maddie Rhodes
Photo: Flickr

Sexual violence in SpainAfter five years of pushback, in May 2021, Spain finally approved a bill defining all non-consensual sexual acts as rape. The passing of the bill comes after the notorious “wolfpack” case. When five men gang-raped a woman, the public sought justice. Citizens wanted the Spanish government to promise that this type of horrific violence would never go unpunished. The legislation that has come about as a result of the case is a positive step toward fighting sexual violence in Spain.

Sexual Violence and Alcohol

Extreme substance and alcohol consumption has been linked to acts of sexual assault for several reasons. First, people who consume large amounts of alcohol and substances in social situations can become targets of sexual assault due to the inability “to resist effectively.” Second, heavy drinkers may use intoxication as an excuse for unacceptable behavior, which includes sexual assault. Third, the impairments caused by alcohol may lead to misperceptions and aggressive behavior which can prompt sexual violence.

Regardless of the contributing factors to sexual violence, actions addressing the issue of sexual violence are insufficient. In order for victims of sexual violence in Spain to achieve justice, Spain’s laws require legislative reform.

“Yes Means Yes” Model

In December 2018, the whole nation of Spain watched in shock as the five men that gang-raped a young woman were charged with sexual abuse but not gang rape. The court’s ruling rests “on the grounds that Spanish law requires evidence of physical violence or intimidation to prove a rape charge.” The ruling caused outrage throughout Spain with many women protesting justice for the victim.

After more than a year of heated protests, Spain’s Supreme Court overturned the previous court ruling, convicting the men of rape and sentencing them to 15 years in prison. The bill is based on the “yes means yes” model of sexual consent. This model defines any non-consensual sexual act as rape. Maria Jesus Montero, a spokesperson for the Spanish government, stated that the new law places “the victim at the center of the public response.” Most importantly, she stressed that passivity and silence do not equal consent.

Under the existing legislation, the predator must have used physical violence or intimidation for the act to count as rape. Now, with the new legislation, stalking, street harassment and genital mutilation will also become crimes. Furthermore, gang rape has gained more severe punishments, including prison sentences as high as 15 years. Additionally, the legislative reform called for the development of a 24-hour helpline for sexual assault victims.

Eliminating Sexual Violence in Spain

The “yes means yes” model of law puts Spain on the same level as 11 other European countries that have similar laws and legal definitions. Some of these countries include Sweden, Portugal and Britain. For its part, Spain has put itself at the forefront of fighting against gender-based violence, from implementing gender violence legislation in 2004 to legalizing gay marriage in 2007. With the new legislation, the government aims to improve research and reporting on all forms of sexual violence in Spain.

– Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in SpainThe world of health technology has been growing exponentially in the last decade and continues to grow, especially with the novel coronavirus still affecting the world. One of the most prominent locations for health technology is in Spain. The industry has a large quantity of health tech company startups in Spain; high-quality companies are making new drug discoveries for treatments and creating virtual therapies that can help those in impoverished areas receive the medical care they need. Here are the top five health tech companies making strides in Spain.

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in Spain

  1. Elma Care is an app that combines comprehensive health insurance with remote medical consultations. This great new resource emerged in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. Elma Care is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because the app keeps all of a patient’s medical information in one place, allows consultation with primary care physicians remotely and offers tools like preventative medicine plans to help people access healthcare with more ease and efficiency. All of this is possible from the comfort and safety of the home, allowing for social distancing during the current global pandemic.
  2. Devicare is a specialty biotech company that focuses on chronic diseases. The company, founded in Barcelona, Spain, strives to develop solutions for the treatment process of chronic diseases. The company also offers a mentoring service with a team of experts and nursing staff. Often, chronic diseases involve a multitude of doctor visits and, in many cases, few answers. However, Devicare offers a cheaper and easier way of treating chronic diseases.
  3. Savana Medica provides a platform in which the clinical data for patients from healthcare organizations can be managed. EHRead, a form of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, technology, can obtain valuable health information that aids medical professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because this technology fosters quick and efficient access to records, which can help doctors understand a patient’s history of disease and illness.
  4. Genomcore is a company that has created an interface that stores a patient’s genetic information. Founded in 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, the platform that Genomcore provides for patient information can be efficiently shared with medical professionals when necessary. Genomcore helps foster more personalized treatment for patients and consequently the possibility of faster recovery from illness.
  5. Mediktor was founded in 2011 but has made a new name for itself due to increased use during the pandemic. Mediktor is an app that gives symptom assessments to patients via their own personal devices before even seeing a medical professional. In March 2020, the company released the COVID-19 symptom checker. With Mediktor, people were able to determine, with great accuracy, whether or not they needed to see a medical professional in relation to COVID-19 symptoms.

The top five health tech companies in Spain are instrumental to the world of healthcare today. While many people have restricted access to needed medical attention, these new technologies can change that.

– Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Spain
While COVID-19 is a terrible disease on a physical level, the pandemic has also posed a challenge to mental health. Moreover, the existence of the disease and political measures such as lockdowns have impacted mental health in Spain.

Current Mental Health Scenario in Spain

Before the outbreak of the pandemic, the incidence of cases of mental stress experienced a decrease. Thus, in 2011, Spain had a 22.1% prevalence of cases while the figure dropped to 19.1% in the year 2017. However, by the end of 2019, COVID-19 began to monopolize the news until it became a harsh global reality.

Initially, Spain had over 9,000 coronavirus new cases on March 31, 2020, and the country’s infection numbers rose from that time. However, the fear of the unknown and the danger of the rapid increase in cases shook the foundations of modern Spanish society. The danger was real, and the average citizens perceived their own vulnerability.

Thereby, while the number of new infections grew, the population began to feel the psychological consequences. With the approval of the state of alarm and subsequent lockdown on March 14, 2020, economic uncertainty and isolation began to harass Spanish families. A study indicated that this led to an increase in anxiety, post-traumatic stress and symptoms of depression between the months of March and April 2020.

With this, the consumption of psychotropic drugs also increased in accordance with this bleak context. During the lockdown, the consumption of anxiolytics rose 15% in a country. Even before the lockdowns, Spain was among the countries in the European Union that consumed the most anxiolytics, sedatives and hypnotics, with only Portugal exceeding it.

In order to avoid the aggravation of mental disorders, primary care is essential. For this, psychologists are necessary for patients who begin to feel symptoms pertaining to poor mental health.

An Unequal Impact

Within this general panorama, one should note that the incidence of depressive or anxious symptoms has been uneven. These symptoms have been more prevalent among lower classes as they have had greater economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, The Center for Sociological Research (CIS) stated this inequality in a recent report indicating that the percentage of lower-class people who have felt down, depressed or hopeless during the pandemic was almost double at 32.7% compared to 17.1% among those with a higher socioeconomic status. Also noteworthy is the prescription for psychotropic drugs; only 3.6% of upper-class people obtained psychotropic drug prescriptions in comparison with 9.8% of lower-class individuals.

Although Spain has a good public health system and a high life expectancy at 83 years in 2018, one of the highest in the world, psychological public care has some deficiencies. As a result, several people cannot access a psychologist.

This makes going to the psychologist a privileged reality. In quantitative terms, if compared with neighboring countries, the Spanish Ombudsman Office reported that while the ratio of psychologists in the Public System per 100,000 inhabitants in Europe is 18, in Spain, this figure drops to six psychologists per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Need for Political Action

Therefore, understanding the mental context and the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented regarding health and the economy, the country must adapt to the scenario and avoid further challenges for mental health in Spain. Given that the Spanish constitution establishes that health is a universal and free right, Spain must prevent mental health from becoming a privilege of a few.

The first “intrusion” of the matter into the political scene was the intervention of deputy Iñigo Errejón, of the Unidas Podemos party, who highlighted the problem in a vehement speech to Parliament. After a social and political upheaval on social media, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has promised to update the national strategy for psychological and psychiatric care of the National Health System in order to guarantee rapid and universal treatment for citizens.

The Prime Minister has admitted in Parliament that the matter is a problem of the first order. In order to provide an effective and rapid solution to this mental health crisis, the update of the Mental Health Strategy has received an endowment of 2.5 million euros. The prevention of mental disorders that include the early detection of potential suicidal behaviors is now on the table in current Spanish politics.

Will Spain’s measures be sufficient in reducing the levels of mental disorders in the Spanish population? Only time will tell. At the moment, Spain’s authorities are working on the issue.

Guillermo Remón
Photo: Flickr