Economy of Spain: Wikis


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Economy of Spain
Currency 1 Euro = 100 eurocent
Fiscal year Calendar year
Trade organizations EU, WTO and OECD
GDP 1.051 trillion
($1.443 trillion) (4th term 2009)[1]
GDP growth −3,1% (2009)[2]
GDP per capita 22,486 ($30,862) (2009)[2]
GDP by sector agriculture (2.3%), energy (2.3%), industry (11.7%), construction (10.0%), services (66.6%) (Dec. 2009)[1]
Inflation (CPI) 1.1% (Jan. 2010)[2]
below poverty line
19.8% (2005)
Gini index 32% (2005)
Labour force 23.0 million (Dec. 2009)[2]
Labour force
by occupation
services (70.7%), industry (14.1%), construction (9.9%), agriculture, farming and fishing (4.5%), energy (0.7%) (Sep. 2009)[1]
Unemployment 18.83% (Dec. 2009)[2]
Main industries Tourism, textiles and apparel (including footwear), food and beverages, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals, shipbuilding, automobiles, machine tools.
Exports €248.9 billion ($341.6 billion) F.O.B. (2009)[1]
Export goods Machinery, motor vehicles, foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and medicines, other consumer goods
Main export partners France 18.8%, Germany 10.8%, Portugal 8.6%, Italy 8.5%, UK 7.6% U.S. 4.2% (2007)
Imports €270.4 billion ($371.1 billion) (Oct. 2009)[1]
Import goods Machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, semifinished goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods, measuring and medical control instruments
Main import partners Germany 15.7%, France 12.7%, Italy 8.4%, China 5.8%, UK 4.8%, Netherlands 4.6% (2007)
Public finances
Public debt €455.95 billion 43.1% GDP (Nov. 2009) or $653.10 billion[3]
Revenues $443.3 billion (2008 est.)
Expenses $535.6 billion (2008 est.)
Economic aid $1.33 billion (donor) (1999)
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars

Until 2008 the economy of Spain had been regarded as one of the most dynamic within the EU, attracting significant amounts of foreign investment.[4] During the last four decades the Spanish tourism industry has grown to become the second biggest in the world, worth approximately 40 billion Euros, about 5% of GDP, in 2006.[5][6] Spain's economy had been credited with having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU.[7] In fact, the country's economy had created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union over the five years ending 2005, a process that is rapidly being reversed.[8]

More recently, the Spanish economy had benefited greatly from the global real estate boom, with construction representing an astonishing 16% of GDP and 12% of employment in its final year.[5] According to calculations by the German newspaper Die Welt, Spain had been on course to overtake countries like Germany in per capita income by 2011.[9] However, the downside of the now defunct real estate boom was a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt; as prospective homeowners had struggled to meet asking prices, the average level of household debt tripled in less than a decade. This placed especially great pressure upon lower to middle income groups; by 2005 the median ratio of indebtedness to income had grown to 125%, due primarily to expensive boom time mortgages that now often exceed the value of the property.[10]. There is also no unemployment benefit in Spain, as the tax is particularly low

A European Commission forecast had predicted Spain would enter a recession by the end of 2008.[11] According to Spain’s Finance Minister, “Spain faces its deepest recession in half a century”.[12] Spain's government forecast the unemployment rate would rise to 16% in 2009. The ESADE business school predicts 20%.[13]



The Spanish economy was credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU (namely France, German and Italy) in the late 90's and at the beginning of the 21st century in a process which started with former Prime Minister Aznar's recommenced liberalization and deregulation reforms aimed at reducing the state's role in the economy. In 1995, the country began an impressive economic cycle marked by strong economic growth, with figures at or above 3%.[14] In 2008, however, the bursting of the housing bubble resulted in a severe recession that greatly outstripped successive government predictions.[15]

Map showing regional variation in European GDP (PPP) per capita in 2006. Figures from International Monetary Fund

Growth in the decade prior to 2008 steadily diminished the per capita economic gap between Spain and the largest economies in the EU. By the end of this economic cycle, Spain's per capita position had overtaken Italy's and was almost on a par with that of France.[16]

During this time the Spanish economy was regarded as one of the most dynamic within the EU, even able to replace the leading role of much larger economies like the ones of France and Germany, thus subsequently attracting significant amounts of native and foreign investment.[17] Also, during the period spanning from the mid 1980s through the mid 2000s, Spain was second only to France in being the most successful OECD country in terms of reduced income inequality over this period.[18]

Spain also made great strides in integrating women into the workforce. From a position where the role of Spanish women in the labour market in the early 1970s was similar to that prevailing in the major European countries in the 1930s, by the 1990s Spain had achieved a modern European profile in terms of economic participation by women.[19]

Due to its own economic development and the recent EU enlargements up to 27 members (2007), Spain as a whole exceeded (105%) the average of the EU GDP in 2006 placing it ahead of Italy (103% for 2006). As for the extremes within Spain, three regions in 2005 were included in the leading EU group exceeding 125% of the GDP average level (Madrid, Navarre and the Basque Autonomous Community) and one was at the 85% level (Extremadura).[20] According to the growth rates post 2006, noticeable progress from these figures happened until early 2008, when the Spanish economy was heavily affected by the puncturing of its property bubble by the global financial crisis.[15]

The centre-right government of former prime minister José María Aznar had worked successfully to gain admission to the group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Unemployment stood at 7.6% in October 2006, a rate that compared favorably to many other European countries, and especially with the early 1990s when it stood at over 20%. Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include high inflation,[21] a large underground economy,[22] and an education system which OECD reports place among the poorest for developed countries, together with the United States and UK.[23] However, the property bubble that had begun building from 1997, fed by historically low interest rates and an immense surge in immigration, imploded in 2008, leading to a rapidly weakening economy and soaring unemployment. By the end of May 2009 unemployment had already reached 18.7% (37% for youths).[24][25]


2008–2009 financial crisis

Spain continued on the path of economic growth when the ruling party changed in 2004, maintaining robust GDP growth during the first term of prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, even though some fundamental problems in the Spanish economy were becoming clearly evident. Among these, according to the Financial Times, there was Spain's huge trade deficit (which reached a staggering 10% of the country's GDP by the summer of 2008),[26] the "loss of competitiveness against its main trading partners" and, also, as a part of the latter, an inflation rate which had been traditionally higher than the one of its European partners, back then especially affected by house price increases of 150% from 1998 and a growing family indebtedness (115%) chiefly related to the Spanish Real Estate boom and rocketing oil prices.[27]

The Spanish government official GDP growth forecast for 2008 in April was 2,3%. This figure was successively revised down by the Spanish Ministry of Economy to 1.6.[28] This figure looked better than those of most other developed countries. In reality, this rate effectively represented stagnant GDP per person due to Spain's high population growth, itself the result of a then continuing strong level of immigration. Currently most independent forecasters estimate that the rate was actually around 0.8% instead,[29] far below the strong 3% plus GDP annual growth rates during the 1997-2007 decade. Then, during the third quarter of 2008 the national GDP contracted for the first time in 15 years and, in February 2009, it was confirmed that Spain, along other European economies, had officially entered recession.[30]

In July 2009, the IMF worsened the estimates for Spain's 2009 contraction, to minus 4% of GDP for the year (close to the European average of minus 4.6%), besides, it estimated a further 0.8% contraction of the Spanish economy for 2010, the worst prospect amid advanced economies[31].

In 2007 the total Spanish public debt (government debt) relative to the total GDP was well below the European Union average, and in fact the government budget was running on a slight fiscal surplus, but the financial situation has since rapidly deteriorated. From late 2008 the public debt relative to GDP began to climb steeply, reaching almost the same percentage level as the UK's, although still well below Greece's level, at the beginning of 2010. Because of the severity of Spain's economic crisis, annual government deficits are expected to remain high and will continue to add heavily to the public debt over the next few years, as an expected slow recovery holds down tax receipts while welfare and other recession related expenses remain high.


Due to the lack of own resources, Spain has to import all of its fossil fuels. In a scenario of record prices this means adding much pressure to the inflation rate. As a matter of fact, in June 2008 the inflation rate reached a 13-year high at 5.00%. Then, with the dramatic decrease of oil prices that took place in the second half of 2008 plus the manifest bursting of the real estate bubble, concerns quickly shifted over to the risk of deflation, as Spain recorded in January 2009 its lowest inflation rate in 40 years, followed shortly afterwards, in March 2009 by a negative inflation rate for the first time since the gathering of these statistics started.[32][33]

Spanish banking system

The Spanish banking system has been credited as one of the most solid and best equipped among all Western economies to cope with the ongoing worldwide liquidity crisis, thanks to the country's conservative banking rules and practices. Banks are required to have high capital provisions and to demand various guarantees and securities from intending borrowers. This has allowed the banks, particularly the geographically and industrially diversified large banks like BBVA and Santander, to weather the real estate deflation better than expected. Indeed, these banks have been able to capitalise on their strong position to buy up distressed banking assets elsewhere in Europe and in the United States.[34]

However, given the unprecedented deepening of the housing crisis, smaller savings banks are known to have delayed the registering of failed credits, especially those backed by houses and land, to avoid declaring losses. This has occurred despite the fact that credits are backed by the borrower's present and future assets. The graveyard is no escape from prosecution.

Thus far, CCM (Caja Castilla la Mancha) is still the only local savings bank to be taken over by the Banco Central de España (equivalent of the US Federal Reserve). Price Waterhouse estimated an imbalance between assets and debts of €3,500 million, not counting the industrial corporation. One of the investment mistakes this bank had indulged in during the height of the property boom was funding the construction of an airport in Ciudad Real. It turned out that no airline wanted to operate from there, resulting in a financial fiasco (as well as wasting a lot of land and ruining vistas). There were still further errors leading to the present situation. The central bank intervened in the financial affairs of this caja because of generalised withdrawal of money by savers. The extent of the problems with the smaller banks remains unclear.[35]

Employment crisis

As for the employment, after having completed substantial improvements over the second half of the 1990s and during the 2000s which put a few regions on the brink of full employment, Spain suffered a severe setback in October 2008 when it saw its unemployment rate surging to 1996 levels. During the period October 2007-October 2008 Spain had its unemployment rate climbing 37%, exceeding by far the unemployment surge of past economic crises like 1993. In particular, during the month of October 2008, Spain suffered its worst unemployment rise ever recorded and,[36] so far, the country is suffering Europe's biggest unemployment crisis[37]. By July 2009, it had shed 1.2 million jobs in one year and was to have the same number of jobless as France and Italy combined[38]. Spain's unemployment rate hit 17.4% at the end of March, with the jobless total now having doubled over the past 12 months, when two million people lost their jobs.[39] In this same month, Spain for the first time in her history had over 4,000,000 people unemployed,[40] an especially shocking figure even for a country which had become used to grim unemployment data.[39] Although rapidly slowing, large scale immigration continued throughout 2008 despite the severe unemployment crisis, thereby worsening an already grave situation.[41] There are now indications that established immigrants have begun to leave, although many that have still keep their homes in Spain due to poor conditions in their country of origin.[42]

The 2010 Euro Debt Crisis

In the first weeks of 2010, renewed anxiety about the excessive levels of debt in some EU countries and, more generally, about the health of the euro has spread from Ireland and Greece to Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Some European think-tanks such as the CEE Council have argued that the predicament some Mainland EU countries find themselves in today is the result of a decade of debt-fueled Keynesian economic policies pursued by local policy makers and complacent EU central banker[43], and many economists have recommended the imposition of a battery of corrective policies to control public debt- such as drastic austerity measures and substantially higher taxes.

Some senior German policy makers went as far as to say that emergency bailouts should bring harsh penalties to EU aid recipients such as Greece, Spain or Ireland.[44]

While Spain's public debt at the beginning of 2010 was still not especially high by European standards, commentators have become concerned that the central government has no control over the spending of the regional governments. Under the shared structure of government responsibilities that have evolved since 1975, much responsibility for spending had been given back to the regions, without giving the regions the responsibility of raising the required taxes. The central government now finds itself unable to gain support for unpopular spending cuts from the recalcitrant regional governments.[45]

Economic ties

Spanish exports in 2006

Ever since the 1990s some Spanish companies have gained multinational status, often, but not only, expanding their activities in culturally close Latin America, where Spain is the second biggest foreign investor after the United States.[46]

Spanish companies lead fields like renewable energy (Iberdrola is the world's largest renewable energy operator[47]) and infrastructure, with six of the ten biggest international construction firms specialising in transport being Spanish, like Ferrovial, ACS, OHL or FCC.[48]

Carbon dioxide emissions

Carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of energy in Spain between 1971 and 2007.

In 2007, carbon dioxide emissions from the consumption of energy in Spain were 383.205 million metric tons in 2007.[49][50] It makes Spain the fifth emissor in the European Union and the 18th all over the world. With regard to per capita carbon emission, figures for Spain are 9.474 metric tons (9th in the European Union and 49th in the world).[51]

Year CO2 emissions
(million tonnes of CO2)
Year CO2 emissions
(million tonnes of CO2)
Year CO2 emissions
(million tonnes of CO2)
Year CO2 emissions
(million tonnes of CO2)
1971 119.96 1981 191.32 1991 213.48 2001 285.41
1972 125.86 1982 186.18 1992 224.97 2002 301.60
1973 140.58 1983 189.87 1993 210.96 2003 309.61
1974 151.73 1984 180.73 1994 220.84 2004 327.45
1975 156.57 1985 175.55 1995 233.67 2005 339.71
1976 173.50 1986 179.38 1996 222.99 2006 332.28
1977 166.79 1987 180.42 1997 241.20 2007 344.70
1978 166.01 1988 184.74 1998 249.12
1979 176.35 1989 202.27 1999 268.76
1980 187.91 1990 205.85 2000 283.87

References and notes

  1. ^ a b c d e Main results, National Statistics Institute
  2. ^ a b c d e National Statistics Institute
  3. ^ Tesoro Público. Boletín mensual sobre los mercados de deuda del Estado
  4. ^ (PDF) Official report on Spanish recent Macroeconomics, including tables and graphics, La Moncloa,, retrieved 2008-08-13 
  5. ^ a b "Global Guru" analysis, The Global Guru,, retrieved 2008-08-13 
  6. ^ "Economic report" (PDF). Bank of Spain. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  7. ^ OECD figures, OECD,, retrieved 2008-08-13 
  8. ^ Economic statistics, Guardian,, retrieved 2008-08-13 
  9. ^ (PDF) No camp grows on both Right and Left, European Foundation Intelligence Digest,, retrieved 2008-08-09 
  10. ^ (PDF) Bank of Spain Economic Bulletin 07/2005, Bank of Spain,, retrieved 2008-08-13 
  11. ^ Recession to hit Germany, UK and Spain, Financial Times, 2008-09-10,, retrieved 2008-09-11 
  12. ^ Spain faces deepest recession in 50 years, Spanish News, January 18, 2009
  13. ^ Mounting joblessness in Spain | And worse to come, The Economist, January 22, 2009
  14. ^ "Country statistical profiles 2006 (the URL leads directly to information on Spain)" (HTML output from database query), OECD Stat Extracts (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development),, retrieved 1 May 2009 
  15. ^ a b "Spain (Economy section)", The World Factbook (CIA), 23 April 2009, archived from the original on 19 May 2009,, retrieved 1 May 2009, "GDP growth in 2008 was 1.3%, well below the 3% or higher growth the country enjoyed from 1997 through 2007." 
  16. ^ According to Eurostat's early estimates for 2007 GDP per capita for the EU-27. Spain happened to stay at 107% of the level, well above Italy who was still above the average (101%), and catching up with countries like France (111%).EMBARGO
  17. ^ Permanent Lisbon Unit (October 2005), "II. Diagnosis and Challenges of the Spanish Economy", in National Coordinator for Lisbon Strategy (PDF), Convergence and Employment: The Spanish National Reform Program, Spanish Prime Minister’s Economic Office (OEP),, retrieved 1 May 2009 
  18. ^ "Income inequality", The Economist, Economic and Financial Indicators, 30 October 2008, ISSN 0013-0613, OCLC 1081684,, retrieved 1 May 2009 
  19. ^ Wankel, Charles, ed. (2009), "Economic Indicators", Encyclopedia of business in today's world, Thousand Oaks, California, United States: SAGE, ISBN 9781412964272, OCLC 251215319 
  20. ^ Login required — Eurostat 2004 GDP figures
  21. ^ "Spain's Economy: Closing the Gap". OECD Observer. May 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  22. ^ "Going Underground: America's Shadow Economy". FrontPage magazine. January 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  23. ^ (PDF) OECD report for 2006, OECD,, retrieved 2008-08-09 
  24. ^ Euro zone unemployment reaches 15 million. July 2, 2009.
  25. ^ The unemployment timebomb is quietly ticking. Telegraph. July 4, 2009.
  26. ^ Abellán, L. (30 August 2008), "El tirón de las importaciones eleva el déficit exterior a más del 10% del PIB" (in Spanish), El País, Economía (Madrid),, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  27. ^ Crawford, Leslie (8 June 2006), Boomtime Spain waits for the bubble to burst, , Financial Times, Europe (Madrid), ISSN 0307-1766, 
  28. ^ Europa Press (2008), La economía española retrocede un 0,2% por primera vez en 15 años, (in Spanish), El País, Economía (Madrid), 31 October 2008,, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  29. ^ Economist Intelligence Unit (28 April 2009), "Spain Economic Data", Country Briefings (The Economist), archived from the original on 19 May 2009,, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  30. ^ Day, Paul; Reuters (18 February 2009), "UPDATE 1 — Spain facing long haul as recession confirmed", Forbes (Madrid),, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ Reuters (13 February 2009), "Spain's Vegara does not expect deflation", Forbes (Madrid),, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  33. ^ Agencias (15 April 2009), "El IPC de marzo confirma la primera caída de los precios pero frena la deflación" (in Spanish), El País, Economía (Madrid),, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  34. ^ Spain's largest bank, Banco Santander, took part in the UK government's bail-out of part of the UK banking sector. Charles Smith, article: 'Spain', in Wankel, C. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Business in Today's World, California, USA, 2009.
  35. ^ "Spanish steps", The Economist, International Banking, 15 May 2008,, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  36. ^ Agencias (4 November 2008), "La recesión económica provoca en octubre la mayor subida del paro de la historia" (in Spanish), El País, Internacional (Madrid),, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  37. ^ "Builders' nightmare", The Economist, Europe (Madrid), 4 December 2008,, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  38. ^ [2]
  39. ^ a b "Spain's jobless rate soars to 17%", BBC America, Business (BBC News), 24 April 2009,, retrieved 2 May 2009 
  40. ^ Agencias (24 April 2009), "El paro supera los cuatro millones de personas por primera vez en la historia" (in Spanish), El País, Economía (Madrid),, retrieved 14 May 2009 
  41. ^ Captain Chaos (8 March 2009), "Spain sees first drop in immigration in a decade", Costa Tropical News, Spanish News (on-line), archived from the original on 19 May 2009,, retrieved 14 May 2009  (this periodical appears to be more blog-like than journalistic)
  42. ^ González, Sara (1 May 2009), "300.000 inmigrantes han vuelto a su país por culpa del paro" (in Spanish), El Periódico de Catalunya, Sociedad (Barcelona: Grupo Zeta),, retrieved 14 May 2009 
  43. ^ (French) see M. Nicolas Firzli, 'Bank Regulation and Financial Orthodoxy: the Lessons from the Glass-Steagall Act',, retrieved 2010-01-04 
  44. ^ (English) 'Merkel Economy Adviser Says Greece Bailout Should Bring Penalty',, retrieved 2010-02-15 
  45. ^ Zapatero’s Bid to Avoid Greek Fate Hobbled by Regions, Bloomberg, March 18 2010
  46. ^ "A good bet?", The Economist, Business (Madrid), 30 April 2009,, retrieved 14 May 2009 
  47. ^ [3]
  48. ^ "Big in America?", The Economist, Business (Madrid), 8 April 2009,, retrieved 14 May 2009 
  49. ^ International Energy Statistics. Total Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption of Energy (Million Metric Tons): Europe. US Energy Information Administration
  50. ^ World carbon emissions, by country, The Guardian, March 10th 2009.
  51. ^ International Energy Statistics. Per Capita Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption of Energy (Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide per Person): Europe. US Energy Information Administration

External links

Statistical resources

Further reading



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