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Poverty and Social Inequality in Spain


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Poverty and Social Inequality in Spain

  1. 1. 2012 Poverty and Social Inequality in SpainThis report shows there has been a dramatic rise in poverty, hunger and inequalityacross Spain since the outbreak of the economic crisis in 2008. It has become thecountry with the largest inequality of the 27 countries of the European Union(EU). Throughout this essay, we attempt to explain how the global economiccrisis has led to increased poverty and social inequality in Spain, using the “RiskRate of Poverty and Social Exclusion” AROPE.Keywords: poverty, social inequality, Spain, economic crisis, AROPE rate. Fátima Paredes Linkedin:fatimaparedes Emagazine:Scoop poverty-and-social- inequality-in-spain @fatimaparedesm 1 Report prepared for:
  2. 2. In order to explain how the global economic crisis has led to increased poverty and socialinequality in this country, we will use the New Institutional approach, which focuses ondeveloping a sociological and political view of institutions1. We will also handle a basic tool,the “Risk Rate of Poverty and Social Exclusion” AROPE2, an indicator devised for measuringthe poverty and social exclusion in the European Strategy 2020, adopted by the EuropeanCouncil in 2010 for all states member.The mutual European objective is to converge on a common template to make Europeintelligent, sustainable and inclusive. Hence, each country suits their own objectivesaccording to 2020 Strategy, depending on their social, political and economical context. In thecase study of Spain: Population at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE): the stated goal was to movefrom the current figure of 10.6 million people, to a figure of 9.1 and 9.2 million. Employment rate of the population between 20 and 64 years: Spain established 74%(instead of 75% as Europe), and sub-goal of an employment rate of 68.5% among women. Dropout: was established in 15%, compared to 10% of the EU 2020. Proportion of population aged 30-34 with tertiary education: Spanish goal was 44% versus40% in EU.However, until today these objectives have not been achieved, leading to alarming results forSpanish society. The Eurostat statistics from 2009 and 2010 show a worrying increase of overone million people at risk of poverty and exclusion (10.665.615 for 2009, 11.666.827 for2010; a 2’1% increase). Figure 1. AROPE rate evolution in Spain (2004-2010). Source: Eurostat. 1 Based on the book Theory and Methods in Political Science, edited by David Marsh and Gerry Stoker, the New Institutional Approach pays attention to the way in which institutions embody values and power relationships, and the obstacles and opportunities that offer institutional design. This New Institutionalism emerged as a reaction to the ‘undersocialized’ character of dominant approaches in the discipline. 2 The European Union consider people are at risk of poverty and social exclusion (AROPE), when income level is below the poverty line, suffer severe material deprivation, or live in households with low work intensity. 2
  3. 3. The challenge of reducing poverty in Spain, far from moving towards the goal, goes in theopposite direction. These statistics show that we require a huge transformation in shapingsocial policies, to achieve the proposed objectives and combat the negative effects of thedifficult economic situation.The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights points out thatausterity measures may violate human rights. Governments, notably in Europe, haveresponded to mounting deficits with “austerity” measures, making drastic reductions in publicexpenditure. Austerity has entailed rapid decreases in standards of living, as cuts have beenmade to public services and social protection, while unemployment levels have risendramatically. By ratifying the Human Rights Covenant, States Parties have a legally bindingobligation to progressively improve, without retrogression, universal access to goods andservices such as healthcare, education, housing and social security and to ensure favorableconditions of work, without discrimination, in accordance with established internationalstandards. These rights must be achieved by using the maximum of the available resources.Moreover, austerity measures are a disincentive to economic growth and thereby hamperprogressive realization of economic and social rights. Several United Nations human rightsexperts have recently highlighted how austerity measures are incongruent with economic,social and cultural human rights and called for banking sector reforms and human rights-based approaches out of financial and economic crisis. The social insecurity and politicalinstability, as seen in some places of Europe these days, were also potential effects of thedenial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights. In a recent statement, theUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concern overrising social tensions inflamed by the effects of the economic crisis in Greece and Spain andthe broader adverse impacts of austerity measures on the most vulnerable. Figure 2. AROPE rate evolution in the European Union (2009-2010). Source: Eurostat. 3
  4. 4. In conclusion, the economic crisis has led on the degeneration of people’s living conditions,increasing inequalities and destroying the Welfare State. The effects of the crisis are growingexponentially and the measures implemented to struggle poverty and social exclusion are noteffective. The right-wing Popular Party (PP) government and its Socialist Party predecessorhave imposed one draconian austerity package after another, cutting in health care, educationand social services budgets, raising taxes and adopting new labour laws.Therefore, poverty reduction should be directly related to a more equal society. Spain hasremained, compared with developed countries in our environment, in a lower position ofpublic spending on cash benefits, services and tax relief to families. This is not effect of thecurrent situation, even before the crisis, social spending was reduced in comparison with otherEuropean Union countries with the same income levels (social spending in Spain has alwaysbeen substantially lower). In the last years, Spain has not bet on social protection, not takingcare of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Moreover, in times of crisis, when thesocial needs and the number of people at risk of poverty grow, the response generated hasbeen to diminish, even more, the social protection.All the data mentioned above, from an organizing perspective, provide a map of the subjectand signposts to its central questions. As the new institutionalism asserts “institutions are thevariable that explain most of political life, and they are also the factors that requireexplanation” (Peters 1999:150). The economic crisis is deeply affecting the whole society.This is a sample of the unprofitable institutions and policies that exist to struggle poverty andsocial exclusion, which are proof of the urgent need to rethink social policies for citizenship.In Spain, poverty and social exclusion are undermining directly the fundamental right ofhaving enough resources to live a dignified life, ensuring the coverage of basic needs and aminimum level of welfare.References European Comission Eurostat, “European Social Statistics”, (2012). < KS-31-12-666 > (24/11/2012). Instituto Nacional de Estadística, “Nivel, Calidad y Condiciones de Vida”, (2012). <> (24/11/2012). United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Austerity measures may violate human rights”, (2012). <> (20/11/2012). World Socialist Web Site, “Poverty, hunger and inequality grow in Spain”, (2012). <> (26/10/2012). 4