On the whole, public health is good. However, health care
resources are unevenly distributed. Although the medical
density is high, some diseases have not been eradicated,
e.g. tuberculosis. The standard of living has risen. At the
same time, the poor, who make up just under one-fifth of the
population, have not become poorer or more, but poverty is
high compared to the EU average. The social security system
is compulsory for all workers.
Just over 70 percent of total health care costs were
funded by the state in 2013, and the sector accounted for
just under 9 percent of Spain's GDP. Since the 1990s, the
proportion of Spaniards with private health insurance has
The retirement age is 65, with the possibility of early
retirement from the age of 60. In 2011, a pension reform was
approved which means raising the retirement age to 67 years.
The new pension system will be phased in and fully
implemented by 2027. The pensions are based on a combination
of total life income and the number of years worked.
The labor market in Spain has been characterized by a
conflict between the relatively large proportion who have
worked under uncertain terms on temporary contracts and the
permanent employees who have significantly better terms of
employment and whose interests have been guarded by workers'
organizations. Another problem in the Spanish labor market
is the large number of illegal immigrants living in the
country and working in the informal sector. At the end of
the 1990s, the Spanish labor market experienced a crisis and
the unemployment rate skyrocketed, from just over 8 percent
in 2006 to over 24 percent in 2014. The same year, the
country had a youth unemployment rate of 53 percent.
The two most important trade union movements are the CCOO
(the labor commissions) and the UGT (the socialist trade
unions). Both CCOO and UGT are now politically independent.
Both trade unions represent only about 15 percent of the
Spanish labor force. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of ESP and acronym for Spain.
Despite the relatively recent entry of women into the
labor market, they now account for almost half of the total
labor force. However, unemployment is somewhat higher for
women than for men.
Spain's contemporary history
Spain's contemporary history is the country's history
after 1975. Francisco Franco, who had ruled Spain as a
fascist dictatorship since the Spanish Civil War in 1939,
died on November 20, 1975, and upon his death Juan Carlos
was appointed king. The fall of the dictatorship led to the
gradual introduction of democracy. A new constitution was
approved by a referendum in 1978. It made Spain a democratic
monarchy and recognized the principle of regional autonomy.
In 1981 Spain joined NATO and in 1986 the EC (EU). Since
1978, the country has been divided into 17 autonomous
regions with its own regional parliaments. The regions of
Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country have special
status, with their own language and other rights.
Spain has been subject to several terrorist attacks in
recent decades, both from the Basque separatist group ETA
and from the Islamist organizations al-Qaeda (2004) and
Islamic State (2017).
Gradual introduction of democracy
Franco's death on November 20, 1975 and the appointment
of Juan Carlos as king paved the way for new forces: The new
king, liberal-minded politicians and various opposition
groups gradually implemented a number of democratic reforms
that made Spain a different society. Political prisoners
were released, the press spoke freer, the Basque linguistic
rights were approved and the political left side organized.
After Adolfo Suárez took over as head of government in 1976,
the ban on political parties was lifted and amnesty was
given to political prisoners and free elections were printed
for the first time since 1936.
A new constitution was approved by a referendum in 1978.
It made Spain a democratic monarchy and recognized the
principle of regional autonomy. Both Catalonia and the
Basque Country gained internal autonomy following
referendums in 1979. Other regions followed, and Spain was
divided into 17 autonomous territories.
In January 1981, Suárez resigned as prime minister
following a series of local electoral defeats. In February
of that year, a group of civilian guards stormed the Antonio
Tejero National Assembly and held the deputies (elected
officials) hostage. The Valencia military commander
participated in the coup attempt. However, King Juan Carlos
1 made it clear that the coup was against his will. Tejero
surrendered, and in the days that followed, several higher
officers were arrested as accomplices. The king himself
received a great deal of credit for the coup not spreading.
In 1981 Spain joined NATO, and in 1986 the EC (EU). The
Socialist Party PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero
Español) was an opponent of NATO membership, but the party
changed its mind after it came into government position from
1982. In a 1986 referendum on NATO membership, the majority
voted (52.5 percent against 39.8 percent). After years of
international isolation, Spain began to play an increasing
role in international politics, and democratic development
was a role model in Latin America, among others.
In the 1982 election, the PSOE gained a pure majority in
the National Assembly and formed government under its young
and popular leader Felipe González. The Social Democrats
retained the majority in 1986, but lost it in the 1989 and
1993 elections. The Conservative People's Party (PP,
Partido Popular) became the largest party after the
1996 election and formed a government led by José María
Aznar. The other major parties are the leftist Izquierda
Unida (IU) and the Catalan nationalists (CiU,
Convergència in Uniò).
Economic downturn in the 1990s
Following Spain's accession to the EU, the economy was
opened up, the industry modernized and the infrastructure
improved. The upturn was reversed to decline in 1992. In the
following years, the peseta was devalued four times, which
led to a reduced trade balance deficit and somewhat lower
inflation. Spain's economy was mainly characterized by the
high unemployment rate in the 1990s. In 1996, unemployment
was 22.6 percent, the highest in the EU and twice as high as
the EU average. Spain also had large government deficits and
low economic growth.
In order to stabilize the economy, in 1993, the
government tried to negotiate a "social pact" with the two
dominant trade unions UGT and CCOO, among other things, to
control wage growth and reductions in social benefits.
However, the attempt failed, and in January 1994 a general
strike among 10.8 million workers broke out. Later, there
have been major protests against cuts in social benefits,
tax increases and high unemployment.