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