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Inequality in Spain - Statistics & Facts

During the last decades of the 20th century and the beginning the new millennium, the Spanish population benefited from the economic growth experienced by the country, which brought in better life conditions for the many. However, the financial crisis of 2007-2008 put an end to the illusion of never-ending growth, turning the social ladder into a reality once again. Since then, globalization, job market deregulation, stagnant salaries, job insecurity and the dismantling of the welfare state, among others, have widened the gap separating Spanish society and shrunk the middle class. At present, Spain is one of the most unequal nations in Europe, and income inequality in the country is forecasted to grow in the near future.

Wealth and income

During the first years of the 21st century, the proportional wealth held by the richest population in Spain decreased while that of the poorest half grew slightly. However, this trend was reverted after the crisis and, as of 2021, the top ten and one percent had a larger share of wealth in Spain than they did two decades prior. According to the latest data, the average personal wealth of the richest one percent in Spain was valued at 4.27 million euros, which equated to one fourth of the national wealth. Meanwhile, the bottom 50 percent held an average wealth of merely 23,500 euros, equivalent to 6.7 percent of the national wealth.

In comparison, Spain is a relatively equal country when it comes to income distribution. The lowest half received about 23 percent of wage income, while the top ten percent held 29 percent. Wage income distribution varied considerably before and after the intervention of the public sector, as these shares were 16.4 percent and 32.2 percent respectively, before public transfers. The welfare state plays a crucial role enforcing a fairer distribution of income and wealth, despite being limited by issues such as a deficient tax collection system and insufficient redistributive capacity.

The "lost generation"

One of the most conspicuous dimensions of inequality in Spain is the generational one. Even the economic expansion experienced between 2014 and 2019 meant little for the Spanish youth, as the so-called "lost generation" still suffers the repercussions of the financial crisis. With this generation another group appeared: the "ninis" (ni estudia ni trabaja, neither working nor studying), which encompassed young people who studied in the past but failed to find a job, as well as dropouts who find themselves in the same position.

Those who find a job despite the high rates of unemployment struggle with low salaries and temporary jobs, which make it difficult to become independent, pushing the average age to leave the parental householdup to nearly the thirties. Those whose age is below 30 have a poverty rate which exceeds 30 percent, the largest share amongst all age groups and ten percentage points higher than the rate among the elderly population. And while the net income of the youth just recovered the levels registered in 2009 (equivalent to less than 1,000 euros a month), the average monthly pension has increased over 30 percent in the last decade. With millennials ended the idea that each generation would live better than the previous one, as the problems they have been facing will have a lasting impact on their future quality of life.

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