Poverty In SpainThe COVID-19 pandemic has impacted families and communities globally. Not only have people suffered from the virus itself but also from indirect consequences. For example, millions of people have lost their jobs. Now, men and women are facing numerous difficulties while trying to provide their loved ones with basic needs. Citizens in wealthy countries, such as the United States, the U.K. or Japan, have been able to navigate through this pandemic somewhat smoothly. However, the same cannot be said for impoverished people around the world. Poverty in Spain was among some of Europe’s highest rates even before the COVID-19 outbreak. Currently, the citizens of Spain, who had already suffered from poverty, are now met with another obstacle. However, those experiencing poverty in Spain are not alone during this crisis; various NGOs and charities are working together to provide food, facemasks or other necessities to those in need. 

Growing Poverty Rates

According to the National Institute of Statistics of Spain, 26.1% of people were “at risk of poverty or social exclusion” and 5.4% of people experienced “severe material deprivation” in 2018. The National Institute of Statistics also reported that 55.2% of people faced varying degrees of difficulty making ends meet that same year. Although these figures only include adults, children are not excluded from poverty’s reach.

Children in Spain seem to be more vulnerable to poverty than adults. A 2017 report from the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) found that the child population in Spain has unacceptably high rates in the indicators of poverty. One of the report’s most jarring statistics concerning the child population in Spain is that 31.3% of children were “at risk of poverty or social exclusion.” However, these children all experience poverty differently.

Among the children facing poverty in Spain, the 2016 EAPN report identified that 10.8% experienced severe poverty and 6.5% endure severe material deprivation. In 2018, poverty rates for children in Spain hardly budged. The National Institute of Statistics reported that 29.5% of children were still at risk in 2018, and 6.5% were still experiencing severe material deprivation. 

Unemployment Factors In

Although numerous factors are involved with these statistics, the country’s unemployment rate definitely contributes to poverty’s overwhelming presence in Spain. The Center for Sociological Research (CIS) conducted a study in Jan. of 2020 that showed most Spanish citizens consider unemployment and economic problems as the most critical issues in their country. 

The people’s concern about Spain’s economy is legitimate, considering what the statistical analysis shows. In the fourth quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate in Spain was 13.78%. This was two times the rate of the EU. In particular, young people in Spain showed notable unemployment rates. The National Institute of Statistics of Spain recorded unemployment among those below the age of 25 at 30.51% in that same quarter.

Charities and Social Organizations Step in Amid COVID-19

COVID-19 has affected virtually every person in the world in its wake. However, those in poverty have been suffering prior to the virus; in fact, the outbreak of COVID-19 has only made survival in poverty more challenging. As such, charities and social organizations in Spain have been rallying behind those in need to soften the pandemic’s effects. Here are three prominent organizations in Spain whose motives are to reduce poverty and assist those in need during this global crisis:

  1. Cáritas: The Spanish Episcopal Conference instituted Cáritas in 1947. Cáritas Española’s objective is to carry out the charitable and social action 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. It includes its relief efforts, COVID-19 statistics and advocacy for government programs aimed toward poverty in Spain. Some of the services Cáritas has provided during the pandemic include facemask-making workshops, granting hotel rooms for the homeless and providing disinfection services for assisted living homes. 
  2. FESBAL: The Spanish Federation of Food Banks (FESBAL) was founded in 1996 to combat hunger and poverty by reducing food waste in society. On the FESBAL website, one can choose from three different donation amounts that will go toward groceries for impoverished families in Spain who cannot easily access grocery stores due to mandated shutdowns.
  3. Alberto and Elena Cortina Foundation: The Alberto y Elena Cortina Foundation is a Spanish non-profit 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 a large portion of fruit to those in need through the country’s municipal markets after Spain announced a state of emergency.

Looking Ahead

Travel Restrictions have stymied most volunteering and social work interventions, but there are many ways to fight against poverty from home. People who have access to the Internet and a few dollars to spare can significantly contribute to organizations in Spain. Quarantine orders and social distancing have separated people physically, but empathy and human solidarity are boundless. Although thousands of miles might separate countries, people can still reach out to those in need by being informed, spreading awareness and supporting organizations that are working on the front lines toward a better future.

Maxwell Karibian
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

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

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