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Poverty in Spain - statistics & facts

The most part of disposable income derives from wages, and therefore, the chronic high unemployment rate that affects the Spanish economy is one of the main reason behind its poverty issues, together with problems such as high rates of early school leaving, job insecurity, low salaries, or an inadequate social protection net. During the last decade, the share of the population at risk of poverty has remained constant around 21 percent, recording its worst figures between 2014 and 2016. Roughly 55 percent of unemployed people were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2020, which implies that over half of the more than three million unemployed persons in Spain were at such risk. This problem is particularly acute in the case of migrants from outside the EU and individuals with low education.

Material deprivation

One of the most worrisome consequences of poverty is material deprivation, that is, the inability to afford the consumption of goods and activities typical in a society. Many households suffer from poor protein intake; nearly seven percent of single-parent households could not afford a meal with meat, chicken, or fish at least every other day in 2020. In that regard, food insecurity has worsened in recent years, and the share of population that experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in the Mediterranean country was estimated at 8.8 percent between 2018 and 2020. Energy poverty is another important concern, as more than a tenth of the Spanish population lives in households which cannot afford to keep the dwelling at an adequate temperature.

The welfare state

Spain was a latecomer among democratic welfare states, since its current welfare regime did not emerge until the democratic transition in the late 1970s. While insufficient, the Spanish welfare state relies heavily on universal social rights, particularly education and health, and social benefits directed mainly towards retired, unemployed, and disabled persons. Distributive policies play a major role enforcing a fairer distribution of wealth and protecting the poor. For example, as of 2020, the half of the Spanish population that earned the lowest income only received 16.4 percent of total wage incomes, a figure that went up by nearly seven points after public transfers. Besides the national minimum wage, which increased from 600 euros to 950 euros a month between 2008 and 2021, the Minimum Vital Income came into existence in June 2020 to improve the social protection net. Less than a year later, there were 565,195 recipients of this non-contributory benefit from the Social Security, a benefit which aims at helping people or household units at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

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