Education in Spain
Education in Spain was hit hard by the financial crisis of 2008, leaving one in three children in poverty — nearly 2.7 million children — and has one of the highest jobless rates in Europe. Since the financial crisis, the government has been trying to recover, but they have not succeeded in improving education in Spain.

The school drop-out rate is the highest in the EU. In 2014, the drop-out rate was nearly 25 percent. Compared to other countries in the EU, Denmark’s drop-out rate was eight percent, and France’s drop-out rate was 9.7 percent. Only 57 percent of adults in Spain have completed upper secondary education, which is lower than the average 76 percent, according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). This number has been increasing slightly, but it still continues to be the lowest in the EU.

An education bill was introduced in 2013 that has gained controversy. It was passed in 2014 by the conservative Popular Party, which controlled Spanish parliament, despite opposition from other political parties. The bill increased the number of annual exams, organized school funding based on students’ test scores and reintroduced religion as a mandatory subject.

Many Spanish students have protested against this education bill and the subsequent increased costs for college tuition. In 2016, thousands of university students participated in protests in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia.

During the years 2012-2013, there were massive budget cuts on education amounting to 2.2 billion euros. Higher education in Spain took the bulk of the cut at 62.5 percent. The budget cuts led to increases in college tuition, which led to the student protests. The overall investment in education was 21 percent lower than in previous years.

Education in Spain

However, even after the last few years of disarray with education in Spain, the Spanish government is trying to make improvements. In 2016, the government increased the education budget by 10.8 percent even after the large cuts in previous years. The early school leaving percentage is also falling, even as it remains the highest in the EU. The Spanish government has also been reforming the basic vocational education and training (VET) system to improve the chances of gaining employment after graduation for young people. The process seems to be working. The employment rate is one of the lowest in the EU but has risen from 40.9 percent in 2013 to 54.9 percent in 2015.

According to Article 27 of the Spanish Constitution, “Everyone has the right to education.” Therefore, the people of Spain have the right to affordable education to achieve opportunities. Education in Spain still has a chance to improve.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Spain Refugees
Despite having a history of being a welcoming and friendly culture, Spain does not have a very inviting asylum policy. Citizens are pushing their leaders to make Spain a viable location for refugees escaping war-torn countries. Here are 10 facts about Spain refugees.

  1. There were over one million sea arrivals to Europe for refugees in 2015 but only a few thousand went to Spain. There were 1.3 million asylum applications logged but only 13,000 in Madrid.
  2. In 2015, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy issued a statement agreeing that Spain would take only 2,749 refugees. Rajoy believed that due to Spain’s current economic struggles, they could not support an influx of refugees. This number is “less than half of the quote requested by the EU.”
  3. Spanish citizens protested and pressured local governments to change this decision and Rajoy changed the refugee quota to 14,931 in addition to the 2,749.
  4. Even though Spain claimed to have accepted roughly 15,000 refugees over a six-month period in 2015 and 2016, Spain only accepted 18 people according to Spanish NGOs.
  5. In response to this, big cities like Barcelona and Madrid planned a countrywide network for citizens to register to have refugees to stay in their personal homes.
  6. Other cities have offered to join this network. Valencia, the island of Mallorca and the region of Castilla y Leon also pledged to work with local banks, public buildings and universities to receive housing for Spain’s refugees.
  7. Spain refugees see the country as a stepping stone to getting farther north in Europe. Many want to continue on to Germany.
  8. Spain refugees are placed in reception centers for six months. There they receive food, shelter, clothing, legal aid and counseling. “After six months, you don’t get anything. Spain simply throws you out into the street,” says Bashar Haousheh, a Syrian refugee in Spain.
  9. The percentage of Syrian refugees arriving in Spain was 44.2 percent in 2015, over triple that of the next largest nationality, Guinea (Conakry), at 13.6 percent.
  10. Madrid has pledged 10 million euros towards resettlement services. Madrid’s football team, Real Madrid, has pledged over one million euros and the use of its facilities to incoming refugees.

Even though Spain’s recent attempts at accepting refugees are lower than past years, and regardless of the government putting staunch regulations on incoming refugees, the regular citizens of Spain still want to give their assistance and try to make a difference.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Spain
Shaken up by the global economic crisis and with one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe, Spain has many vulnerable people struggling with poverty and hunger. Fortunately, numerous efforts in the towns of Galdakao, El Prat and toward the nation as a whole have helped significantly in the fight against hunger in Spain.

  1. In 2013, the regional government distributed breakfast and snacks to more than 50,000 children at risk of nutritional deficiencies in Andalusia.
  2. In the town of Galdakao, locals installed a community fridge in 2015 where citizens, restaurants and supermarkets can leave leftover food, and anyone who wants it can get it. Paid for by the city, the fridge has helped to feed the hungry and also cut down on waste.
  3. Working closely with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Spain supports the Zero Hunger objective under the Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean 2025 Initiative. A number of projects have been applied to food security governance, deepening the country’s commitment to eradicating hunger within a generation.
  4. Spain is listed as one of the five headquarters that make up Action Against Hunger International, a world leader in the fight against hunger for more than three decades, combating hunger in emergencies, conflicts, natural disasters and vulnerable areas where there is chronic food insecurity.
  5. The adoption of a new “gleaning” movement, which involves the harvesting of farmers’ unwanted crops, has assisted the disadvantaged, sending recovered foods to food banks. The El Punti Solidari food bank in the town of El Prat partnered up with Red Cross, Caritas and opened to 500 local users this year, making a big difference in the lives of families in need.

Despite the recent financial struggles and the growing problem of hunger in Spain, the country has found various methods to improve conditions for health and nutrition for its citizens.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Education in Spain

Education in Spain is important to the country’s future. Although the literacy rate in Spain among male and female youth has been extremely high for many years, the country has been devastated by a financial crisis and a depleting economy. In Spain, the literacy rate for youth ages 15 to 24 is excellent. The U.N.’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that an estimated 99.5% of males and an estimated 99.7% of women were literate from 2008 to 2012. These numbers are very promising but Spain’s ongoing financial crisis might make these statistics a thing of the past.

The European Union (EU) mandated spending cuts that required Spain’s “education spending [which] amounted to 4.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2014… [must now] fall below 4 percent in 2015.” The reductions in public funding also increased university tuition, cut student scholarships, increased class sizes and cut teacher salaries. In the previous year alone, Spain experienced education cuts of $2.2 billion. Consequently, there was an estimated decrease in student enrollment by 45,000 students.

In order to make the system of education in Spain more appealing and beneficial for students, José Ignacio Wert, Spain’s minister of Education, implemented new legislation called the Organic Law for the Improvement of Educational Quality (LOMCE). This piece of legislation made numerous changes to Spain’s educational system and warranted mixed feelings between the people of Spain.

One of LOMCE’s initiatives was to end a practice called Selectividad, an entry-level exam that incoming international students were required to pass before being accepted. Another initiative reduced the amount of undergraduate schooling from four years to three and increased the Master’s School requirement from one year to two. Wert said this was a significant change because Spain is “currently isolated from the rest of Europe. We currently don’t recognize graduates from other countries with a three-year degree, even if they come from Cambridge.”

Education in Spain

Wert believes that by implementing LOMCE, Spanish families will save $168 million altogether and students will be eligible to enter the job market by age 21. This is where the LOMCE education bill has created mixed feelings throughout the country because many students have a very different perspective on the matter. The LOMCE education bill was ratified in 2013 and that has decided the future of many students.

For one, students believed that by cutting undergraduate education by one whole year, they were losing the quality of education they could have experienced. Additionally, students believed Wert increased the Master’s School requirement by a full year in order for students to shell out more money to obtain their degrees.

The newly ratified bill for education in Spain is also basing the future of every student off of the examination score they receive on standardized tests. The recorded scores will determine what regions of Spain receive the most educational funding and what students are allowed to continue their education. The students that fall below the minimum requirement “will be separated and their vocational training determined for them.”

Wert stands by the LOMCE education bill because he believes it will help bring Spain’s educational system up to par with the other European countries. The only problem is, Spain’s history of civil war and fascist dictatorship sets it apart from other European countries.

The reign of General Francisco Franco left a gigantic scar throughout Spain and makes its citizens wary of any laws passed down by the national government. Wert and the people of Spain have to find a solution that will provide all aspiring students with the opportunity to pursue an education, without cutting university funding, scholarships and teachers’ wages.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr

Mondragon Cooperatives: An Alternative to Spain's Economic Struggle
Cooperatives are being used as an alternative to the usual corporate hierarchical business model. These are businesses created by people uniting voluntarily in a democratic manner, aiming to improve their economic and social needs.

Economists recognize the crucial role they play in improving Spain’s economic struggle. The largest worker cooperative in the world, Mondragon Corporation based in the Basque region of Spain, best exemplifies this claim. Once known as one of the poorest regions in Spain, the Basque region is now the richest, prospering due to a strong sense of self-determination, grassroots participation and non-governmental intervention.

In the 1940s, the young priest Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta made it a goal to reduce the poverty rate at the time. The repressive policies of Franco’s regime were leading to economic restraints causing more Spaniards to emigrate from the country. Arizmendiarrieta wanted to counteract this by creating humanistic cooperative businesses that looked out for workers’ needs. Arizmendiarrieta and others created a technical school. He then established a cooperative bank, the Caja Laboral, leading to the first industrial cooperative in 1956.

Today, Mondragon is one of the most successful Spanish firms with global sales of $15 billion, employing close to 75,000 individuals in a total of 260 cooperatives. The people of Basque no longer experience the poverty they once did, “In Mondragon, I saw no poverty, I saw no signs of extreme wealth, I saw people looking out for each other,” said Sociology Professor Barbara J. Peters. “It is a caring form of capitalism.”

The Mondragon cooperatives are based on 10 principles: democratic organization, open admission, subordinate and instrumental nature of capital, value and importance of labor, participation in management decisions, fair payment, social transformation, cooperation, education and the university.

Workers in Mondragon have full control over their firm. Once a year members of each cooperative meet in a general assembly and elect who they want in charge; this board of directors is chosen to lead the cooperative in making important decisions and deciding the company’s strategy.

Moreover, the cooperatives are not accountable to shareholder’s needs; outsiders cannot buy any control, which allows management to invest solely on their cooperative with the long-term interest of the community in mind. Instead, the workers of Mondragon receive a share of the annual profits or losses based on a formula that tries to reflect the relative productive contribution of each worker.

Using this formula, most of the profits are reinvested, in turn creating new cooperatives and jobs as well as spurring the long-continued growth of Mondragon. Funds are also put aside for social welfare, providing care for retirement, widowhood and disability. Additionally, top CEOs at Mondragon are not earning exceptionally more than starting employees, somewhere between three to nine times more, which is significantly lower than most corporations.

Due to Mondragon’s investment methods, they barely felt the loss of the 2008 recession, which deepened Spain’s economic struggle. Not a single employee was fired, remaining steady at around 84,000 worldwide, one-sixth of them Spaniards. Instead of firing workers, their employees’ average salaries dropped by around 5%, and those who were left without work found jobs at another co-op; all the co-ops back each other up, making sure they prioritize their profits, investing in the co-ops which are economically declining.

Since 1990, Mondragon has expanded its businesses to international markets. Today, they have 125 different businesses in different countries; however, these businesses are not all cooperatives. In 2006, Mondragon began working with Mexico, Brazil and Poland to educate trade unions on how to properly run a co-op.

The 2008 economic recession set the project back. Nevertheless, in 2009 Mondragon partnered with the United Steel Workers (USW) to lay the groundwork for the formation of Mondragon Union Cooperatives in the U.S.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in SpainAs other European countries experience a resurgence in economic growth and subsequently lower unemployment rates after the 2009 Eurozone crisis, poverty in Spain and the unemployment rate are on the rise.

Both the unemployment and poverty rates in Spain currently stand at approximately 21%, with the majority of the impoverished and unemployed concentrated in southern Spain. Regions of northern Spain, especially the Basque Country, have much lower poverty rates due to being a hub for major aeronautic and energy industries.

The stark divide between Spain’s wealthier northern provinces and poorer southern regions has exacerbated the inequality in the distribution of resources and wealth, creating unstable conditions despite Spain’s improving economy.

Poverty in Spain impacts children below the age of 16 more than any other age group, including the elderly. In 2013, one in three Spanish children lived in poverty or were at risk of social exclusion. The average percentage of children living in poverty in the European Union (EU) is 27.6% while Spain tops the EU average at 32.6%, according to the Guardian.

Spain’s high child poverty rate is best explained by budget cuts to child spending in response to Spain’s Great Recession that began in 2008 and persisted until 2015. The Spanish government cut child spending by 15% in 2010, which negatively impacted the quality of education and access to educational resources in Spain. Subsequently, Spain’s school dropout rate reached 24% in 2015, the highest in the EU.

To uplift underprivileged children from poverty in Spain, members of the Spanish Alliance for Investing in Children (SAI­­C) strive to improve the quality of Spain’s educational system in addition to providing health and child development services in resource-poor communities.

Save the Children Spain, a member of the SAIC, believes that the risk of child poverty is strongly linked to a child’s level of education and that of their parents. In a recent report, Save the Children Spain proposes that public policy should reflect the needs of Spain’s children including increased access to education, health services, sports, cultural activities and everything that contributes to interpersonal development.

Poverty in Spain Facts

Increasing the quality of and access to education also has the potential to gradually reduce Spain’s dismal unemployment rate. However, a manifesto drafted by 100 economists suggests immediate policy reforms that could temper Spain’s volatile labor market–the root of Spain’s rising unemployment rate.

Historically, Spanish workers have had rigid, open-ended labor contracts, particularly during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Under Franco, workers who were laid off received compensation amounting to 60 days of pay for each year they worked. Currently, Spanish employers must offer 33 days of severance pay for every year worked for their permanent employees.

In 1984, the use of temporary contracts became a popular way for companies to avoid the responsibility of expensive worker’s compensation. Temporary contracts typically last a maximum of two years and offer low salaries, little protection and low layoff pay (about eight days of pay per year worked). In 2015, 92% of the 15.4 million labor contracts signed in Spain were temporary and one in four contracts were for seven days or less, according to Fortune Magazine.

Under the skewed structure of Spain’s economy, there is too much leeway for companies to exploit temporary workers. Thus, the Manifesto of the 100 Economists aims to protect working Spaniards from high job turnover rates by eliminating the duality of the labor market and having all workers under one contract.

The proposed contract would adjust Spain’s layoff pay to incentivize employers to invest in permanent employees while ensuring that workers receive proper compensation. The authors of the manifesto also suggest that training centered on gaining marketable skills be provided for the long-term unemployed so that they can re-enter the labor market with confidence in their skills and in their protection under new labor laws.

While permanent reforms to address the causes and effects of poverty in Spain remain pending, members of the SAIC and labor reform activists continue to lay the foundation for a more stable Spain.

Daniela N. Sarabia
Photo: Flickr

Town Installs Outdoor Refrigerator to Feed the Hungry in Spain
There are 795 million people worldwide who do not have the resources available to them in order to lead a healthy lifestyle. That means that one in nine people in the world do not have enough food and often live in hunger.

UNICEF estimates that 20 percent of the children in Spain are living below the poverty line and hunger is becoming a more relevant problem in the country. In 2013, Spain distributed breakfast and snacks for 50,000 kids at risk of exclusion.

Seventeen percent of Spanish children are obese and living below the poverty line and do not have access to fresh food, fruit or vegetables.

Unemployment has been climbing since the 2008 financial crisis and Spain was one of the hardest-hit countries. People who once held regular jobs are out of unemployment benefits and are turning to squatting and collecting food from the garbage outside of stores.

In Galdakao, Spain, people are putting leftovers in a fridge on the street in order to feed the hungry.

The city has a population of 30,000 and created a communal refrigerator to help eradicate hunger in their town. After Alvaro Saiz, who ran a food bank in Galdakao, saw starving people digging through trash outside of stores and restaurants he decided there was a better way to not waste unused food through a new organization called Solidarity Fridge.

People in homes, people on the streets, and restaurant owners now take their unused food and put it in the communal fridge for the people who need it most to eat.

The project cost $5,500 and they had to change the law to prevent any legal action against the city if someone got sick. However, no raw meat or eggs are allowed in the fridge and anything in the refrigerator after four days must be thrown out. Solidarity Fridge says no food remains more than a few hours before it is taken by someone who is hungry.

Solidarity Fridge has become a learning experience for children as well. Schools organize field trips to visit the fridge and teach children about sharing and not wasting food.

One-third of food produced is wasted or lost every year, which is 1.3 billion tons. The entire net production of food in sub-Saharan Africa is 230 million tons. Solidarity Fridge may be a future model for other cities around the world wanting to feed the hungry while cutting down on wasting food.

Donald Gering

Sources: Good News Network, New York Times, Revolting Europe, UNEP, WFP
Photo:  Flickr

In September of 1997, Gloria Nieto and her husband, Angel, adopted a baby girl from China. They already had a 4-year-old biological daughter and wanted a second child. Adoption from a developing country seemed like a great option.

Adopting baby Irene was an arduous process—more than they believed it should have been. One big legal issue was that the Spanish government did not understand that the adopted children would have to become Spanish citizens.

When Gloria and Angel came back to their home in Spain, they met with other adoptive parents and decided to start a non-governmental organization that would help future Spanish adoptions from China. The group of adoptive families met in Madrid and made the NGO official. ANDENI translates into English as the National Association for Defense of Children.

There are two avenues for foreign adoption in Spain. One is through the government, the other is with private adoption agencies. ANDENI helps families adopting through the government.

The organization has a central office in Madrid. A small number of administrative people work there for a salary. The remaining workers are volunteers. Each part of Spain has its own leader that serves as a spokesperson and a source of guidance for families. Instead of having to contact the government for help, parents can contact their section leader.

Parents who begin the process of adopting from China join ANDENI by donating every three months or so to the organization. Donations are based on what the family decides it can pay—there is no obligatory donation amount.

The organization provides families with adoption assistance for every step of the journey. They learn what has to be done in Spain before they go to get their child as well as what has to be done in China. The organization helps parents fill out adoption papers, prepares them for their trip to China and provides them with a translator and a safe travel agency.

After parents successfully adopt their child, they become a part of the ANDENI community of adoptive families. The group supports each other and their adoptive children as they grow up. Both of Gloria and Angel’s daughters, Aida and Irene, now work with grown adopted children. Irene counsels teenagers on how being adopted affects their identity.

In its 18 years, ANDENI has helped 4,500 families. Spain is second to the U.S. in the number of children adopted from China. Proportionally, they are #1. Spain is currently home to 18,000 adopted Chinese children.

In recent years, Chinese adoptions have been slowing worldwide. There are fewer children in orphanages and the Chinese government gives priority to national adoptions. People that began the adoption process in 2006, are just now starting to get their children.

This is great news for orphans in China and suggests a positive outlook for poverty levels there. Yet for ANDENI, it means fewer families are joining and fewer volunteers are needed. Volunteer numbers have fallen from 2,100 at its peak to just 1,600. Many families have stopped paying since they have lost their jobs due to the Spanish economy.

To adapt, ANDENI began to focus on orphans and people living in poverty in China. They started collecting money to send to Chinese orphanages to pay for amenities like washing machines, air conditions, food, clothing, etc. One of the poorest providences in China, Yunnan, received enough money from ANDENI to build four schools and hospitals.

In total, ANDENI has raised and sent one million dollars to China. The organization collaborates with the Chinese government to ensure that the funds are doled out appropriately.

As for the future of ANDENI, Gloria’s family sees it collaborating with other NGOs helping orphans and others in need living in third-world countries such as Sierra Leone in Africa.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: ANDENI, ANDENI Valencia
Photo: Flickr

Due to the economic crisis and government spending cuts, family incomes have fallen to the levels of 10 years ago, placing three million people in extreme poverty in Madrid. According to the national income data, 60 percent of the population is living in poverty.

In Madrid, more than one million people live on 484 euros per month. Approximately 760,000 live on only 242 euros. Overall, there are 1.3 million people who are at risk of poverty, included those who are under the poverty threshold; an estimated total of 20.3 percent of the population, many of whom are women.

Around 17 percent of the population is suffering from severe poverty; from absolute poverty, 12 percent. Rates have since increased due to this crisis.

The annual wage per family is 7,300 euros. For each adult that is a part of the family unit, half of the annual wage is included, leaving 30 percent for each child. Therefore, a family with two children is living lower than the relative poverty line if they have an annual income of 15,330 euros.

As of 2007, the number of people living in extreme poverty was over 29 percent with the average annual income being 3,650 euros. The range continues to increase and is four percent higher than in 2008. Single parent homes with one or more children are living under the poverty line and exceed 37 percent of the population. Of that number, 11.7 percent are considered to be living in extreme poverty.

As of 2012 the spending power of Spain was 18,500 euros per capita. It has decreased since 2001. There has been a steady decrease in income that primarily affects those who live among what are considered standards of impoverished living known as “relative poverty.” Almost 22 percent of, or 10 million, Spaniards live in relative poverty. This is a figure that is 2.2 percent higher since 2008.

As of 2006, the amount of resources that have been available has dropped by five percent. And since the economic collapse in 2007, the income of the bottom poor has decreased by 30 percent, while the wealthy have increased their income by 20 percent.

Equilibrium needs to be restored by refocusing on Millennium Development Goal 1, as well as preparing to implement and follow the successors of the MDGs: the Sustainable Development Goals. Based on the above numbers, it is obvious that there remains a lot of work to be done in order to reverse, and eventually eradicate, extreme poverty and hunger in Madrid.

– Erika Wright

Sources: El Pais, West-Info
Photo: Flickr

poverty in barcelona

Although Barcelona is a top vacation spot for many European and international tourists, residents are nevertheless accustomed to the effects of poverty in this nation.

Geographically, Barcelona lies in Catalonia, a region that encompasses the northeastern part of Spain. The region is made up of four provinces: Barcelona, Tarragona, Girona and Lleida.

Over the years, Catalonia has sought independence from the rest of the nation. Much of the uproar in the area, as well as in much of Spain, concerns the rampant corruption that has affected the nation’s economic outlook. The 2008 global economic collapse caused substantial harm to the Spanish economy.

Jose Maria, chair of the economics department at Madrid’s Autonoma University, said last year that corruption in the country is inhibiting the country’s recovery from its economic problems.

“[Corruption] generates political instability,” he said. “[It] damages the country’s image abroad and investor confidences and increases financial uncertainty.”

Between 2008 and 2011, the number of children living below the poverty line in Catalonia increased by more than 10 percent.

In Barcelona—the country’s second largest city—signs of a troubled economy are present. Public transportation fees on the city’s most popular travelcard have increased five percent this year. Water bills in the city’s metropolitan area could increase by up to 8.5 percent.

A number of different slums can be found in and around the city. Degraded housing in the center of the old city, shantytown housing, multi-family residential blocks and Romani encampments are common throughout the city’s poorest areas. Many of these housing structures were first built in the early and middle 20th century and their infrastructure has been declining ever since.

Those who inhabit the slum housing infrastructures possess similar characteristics, including low levels of education and low incomes. The elderly and the immigrants are often the most common populations who live in such housing structures.

For years, Barcelona has been a witness to high unemployment rates coupled with significant immigration movements. A significant number of Barcelona residents survive off of less than 1,000 euros a month or, roughly, $1,300.

Despite a history of relative impoverishment and continuous economic uncertainty, Barcelona residents do maintain some advantages over others in the developed and developing worlds. For example, every resident has access to health care. In addition, the city, as well as the rest of the country, manages to provide adequate unemployment benefits to its citizens. And given the Spanish culture, strong families are an ingrained aspect of everyday life. Parents and grandparents regularly provide financial support to the younger members of their families.

While Barcelona’s financial future may be relatively uncertain, it is more than likely that the positive components of Spanish culture will remain unchanged.

– Ethan Safran

Sources: UCL, Global Research, BBC, El Pais,, The Atlantic
Photo: Mission Home