Spanish society has fundamentally changed since the fall of the Franco dictatorship in 1975. Among other things, it has become more equal. During the Franco era, women were neither allowed to work nor to have bank accounts without their spouse’s permission. Divorce was prohibited. In 1981 it was allowed to divorce, but only after reflection time. In 2005, the legislation was amended to speed up the process and no longer need to state any reasons for the divorce.
The changes began in the 1980s and several social reforms were implemented during the Socialist Government 2004–2011. Since the new Divorce Act was adopted in 2005, the number of divorces increased by 74 percent. In the same year, Parliament passed a law that allows same-sex marriage and divorce without reflection (previously the couple must have lived apart for at least two years), despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church and the opposition. In 2007, a new Equality Act came into force, which strives for at least 40 percent of both genders to be represented in elected bodies and in private corporate boards.
- Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Spain, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.
The Spanish social insurance system mainly includes pensions and sickness and parental benefits. The statutory maternity leave is 16 weeks with full pay. In 2007, 13 days of paternity leave were introduced, it has subsequently been extended several times and is twelve weeks after the end of 2019/2020. The following year, it should be extended to 16 weeks, as long as for women. The system is financed through income taxes, employers’ fees and government funds.
Poorer living standards for many
Public health services are of a high standard and are free of charge for all residents of the country. However, in August 2012, the government decided to withdraw the free medical care for immigrants who are in the country without legal permission due to the pressured economic situation. The new law led to protests among doctors. In September 2018, the law was abolished by the new social government, and the paperless were again granted the right to free health care.
The rising costs for healthcare had already previously led to the reduction of drug subsidies. Poor public care, not least increasing waiting times to receive specialist care, has led to an increasing number of private health insurance companies, in 2017 approximately one in four residents had one, which was 10 percent more than four years earlier. This has led to warnings that the trend is towards those who can afford better care than those who cannot pay for themselves.
The economic crisis meant that the standard of living was deteriorating for many Spaniards, including those of the middle class. In addition to many being hit by reduced wages and unemployment, many people were forced to leave their homes because they could not afford to pay off their home loans. Problems that have not rarely persisted even after the economy started to grow again.
Many young people have difficulty forming a family, not least because they are forced to stay at home with their parents, on average a Spaniard is 29.5 years old when they leave their parents’ home, compared to 18.5 years in Sweden, according to the Spanish newspaper El País. It has also led to the Spanish women waiting longer to give birth to children (the average age of firstborns in 2018 was 31 years) and also give birth to fewer children than in the rest of the EU. A trend that continued even after the crisis years. In 2018, almost 373,000 children were born in Spain, which was the lowest figure in two decades. Of the children born that year, just over 47 percent were born out of wedlock.
There are also large social gaps in the country, where Catalonia is one of the richest regions in the country and Extremadura, the Canary Islands and the exclaves Ceuta and Melilla are among the poorest. Apart from Catalonia, it was only the regions of Madrid, Basque Country, Navarra, and Aragon that, according to Eurostat statistics, had a GDP per capita that exceeded the EU average. The differences are also large between those living in larger cities and those living in the countryside.
According to a study by Save the Children presented in early 2020, a quarter of all families with children live below the poverty line, many of them in households that cover three generations, that is, even grandparents live with the family and where the parents do not have any higher education. Even more vulnerable, however, were single women with children, many of whom were also unemployed. Another disadvantaged group was immigrant families, where a large part had difficulty getting the money to the gas, electricity and water bills. According to the report, the Spanish state spent only the equivalent of 1.3 percent of GDP on grants and other measures to improve families, compared to an average of 2.3 percent for all OECD countries.
Life expectancy in Spain is among the highest in the world. An increasing proportion of pensioners (see Population and languages) is putting an ever greater strain on the economy. The government therefore decided in 2011 to raise the retirement age to 67 years. At first, it was intended that the increase would occur gradually over a 15-year period, but in 2012, the then Conservative government decided to speed up the change because of the country’s economic problems (see Economic overview).
High proportion of women in politics
According to the country’s equality laws, no gender may have more than 60 percent of the seats on the parties’ election lists. The proportion of women in politics has increased in recent years. In the 2015 election, 35 percent of the members of Parliament’s lower house, Congress, women, in the 2016 election had the proportion increased to 39 percent to rise to 47 per cent in the 2019 election, which was the highest proportion in the EU. Within the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE), 52 percent of congressmen were women.
In the PSOE government that took office in June 2018, 61 percent of the ministers were women (see Kalendari um), compared with a maximum of 36 percent under Mariano Rajoy’s Conservative Governments 2011-2018.
On Women’s Day, March 8, 2018, about five million women took part in a 24-hour strike to draw attention to the issue of gender inequality. Similar events were also held in 2019.
Contested right to abortion
Abortion is still a controversial issue. Before 2010, abortion was only allowed if the woman’s life was in danger, if she had been raped or if the fetus had been damaged. The Socialist Government passed a modern law on abortion, where women have the right to free abortion until the fetus is 14 weeks, and until week 22 if the mother’s health is in danger or if the fetus is severely damaged. The Conservative People’s Party (PP) voted against the law and the Catholic Church protested, as did many private individuals.
In 2012, the newly-appointed right-wing government announced that it wanted to tighten the abortion law again and it presented a new bill in 2013 that would have made Spain one of the countries in Europe with the toughest abortion legislation. However, after major popular and international protests, the government was forced to withdraw the proposal.
This does not mean that the issue of abortion is decided once and for all. Conservative circles and the Catholic Church are among those pushing for a stricter law. PP’s new leader Pablo Casado has said he wants to return to the abortion law that applied until 1985, when abortion was only allowed when the mother’s life was in danger, the fetus was severely malformed or the woman became pregnant after a rape. He has linked his strict line on the issue of abortion to Spain’s low birth rate and said that the Spaniards should ask more for measures that would help them to have children.
A process of allowing active euthanasia began in early 2020, despite strong opposition from the right-wing parties and the Catholic Church (see Calendar).
In 2005, special prosecutors and courts were established to deal with violence against women. Problems with violence against women have been increasingly noticed in recent years, often in connection with serious acts of violence or mentioned cases (see Calendar).
Prostitution is also widespread. The police have been given increased resources to deal with trafficking in women from Latin America and Eastern Europe who are forced into prostitution and the penalties have been increased for those who organize sex trafficking.
FACTS – SOCIAL CONDITIONS
Infant Mortality: 3 per 1000 births (2018)
Percentage of HIV infected: 0.3 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young women
0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.1 percent (2018)
Proportion of population with access to clean water: 99.9 percent (2015)
Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 99.9 percent (2017)
Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 9.2 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on health care per person: 2 US $ 390 (2016)
Proportion of women in parliament: 39 percent (2018)
ETA’s military leaders are arrested
Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, who is considered the leader of ETA’s military branch, is arrested in southern France. He is suspected of planning a series of acts of violence in Spain and France since 2003 and is believed to be behind ETA’s decision to return to violence in 2006.
Basque parties are declared illegal
The Supreme Court illegally declares the Basque parties PCTV and ANV, which are suspected of having relations with ETA.
ETA’s political leaders are arrested
The Basque separatist movement ETA political leader Javier López Peña is arrested in Bordeaux, France, along with other leading ETA members. López Peña has managed to stay away from justice since 1983.
The PSOE forms a minority government
PSOE leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero forms minority government. He creates, among other things, a Ministry of Gender Equality. A majority of the new government’s ministers are women, and Spain gets its first female defense minister.
The Socialist Party wins the parliamentary election
The Socialist Party (PSOE) wins the parliamentary election and increases its voter turnout to 43.6 percent. Even the largest opposition party, the right-wing People’s Party (Partido Popular, PP), is progressing to just over 40 percent. The loser of the election will be Catalonia’s Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, ERC), which requires Catalonia’s independence, as well as the United Left Party (Izquierda Unida, IU), which has entered into a Alliance with the Catalan Environment Party.