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Guide for living and working in Spain
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City Ville Guide

1 - Political Status
Spain has a constitutional monarchy with two legislative assemblies, the Cortes and the Senate.
The King is Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon, who has been ruling since 22nd November 1975.

The Cortes has 350 members elected for a 4 year term of office by direct general election.

There are 257 members in the Senate, 208 of whom are elected for 4 years, and 49 who are designated for a four year term of office by the autonomous communities.

Spain is composed of 17 autonomous communities :
Andalousia, Aragon, Asturies, the Balearic islands, the Canary Islands, Cantabrie, Castille-la-Mancha, Castille-Leon, Catalonia, the Valencian community, Estremadura, Galice, Madrid, Murcie, Navarre, the Basque Country and the Rioja.

There are 50 provinces and 9,255 municipalities in the country.

The Popular Party is in power at the moment, led by José Maria Aznar, who took over as Prime Minister on the 4th May 1996 after 14 years of government by Felipe Gonzalez, a Moderate Socialist.

2 - Geographical Situation
Spain is divided from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenees and separated from the African continent by the Straits of Gibraltar.
It has the particularity of owning domains in France (Llivia) and in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla) and inversely has an English domain on its soil (the Rock of Gibraltar).
The archipelego of the Balearic Islands is a group of islands in the western Mediterranean which make up a province. They are separated from Spain by the Balearic channel.
The Canaries are a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean at about 100 kms off the west coast of Africa. The 7 larger islands and 6 smaller ones make up two provinces.
The total surface area of Spain is 504,782 square kilometers, which equals 0.9 times the size of France. The Canaries and the Balearic Islands are 32 sq. kms.
3 - Economy
Over several years now the Spanish economy has been rapidly growing, encouraged by the dynamism of investment and internal consumption.
Economic growth in the year 2000 reached 4%, whereas 3.7% was forecast.
This was due to the high level of exports (+15% in March) and the constant internal demand.

GDP per capita : 14,623 US $.
A GDP of $576.8 billion is registered for a population of 39 million.
The inflation rate is 2.3 % (2000).
Unemployment stands at 14% and is one of the highest in Europe, but the vigorous growth and the changes in the job market are lowering it.
The country has created nearly 700,000 jobs over the last two years, that is half the number of jobs created in the whole of Europe over the same period.
But job mobility is limited and jobs are often precarious : one third of work contracts are temporary and for people under 30 this figure goes up to two thirds.
France is the biggest commercial supplier and the second biggest investor after the United States. French imports represented 154 billion French Francs in 1998.
Madrid is the Spanish capital and has a population of 3.2 million. 13.2% of the population work there and earn 16.22% of the Spanish GDP, i.e. 64,672 billion pesetas (=2,509 billion French Francs).
Catalonia (which includes Barcelona, Gerona, Lerida and Tarragone) records 19.5% of the GNP, it is the biggest earner of the 17 autonomous regions. With 15.5% of the population, it produces a quarter of the exports. 29% of foreign investors are established there.
The main economic partners of Spain are the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the UK and Italy.
The main economic indicators

(in percentage)


economic growth


consumption (variation)


investment (variation)






short term interest rate


public balance/GDP


public debt/GDP


exports (variation)


Imports (variation)


trade balance (billions $)


recettes touristiques (milliards $)


investissement étrangers (milliards $)


(source OECD)

The deficit and the public debt are decreasing. The entry into the Euro Monetary Union means that the service on the debt has gone down with the lowering of the interest rates. Spain is by far the leading beneficiary of the European Union, receiving the double of what it puts into the communal fund.

There are large economic disparities between the different autonomous communities. Decentralization has not been completed, particularly where taxation is concerned.

The government has reduced its spending and the public deficit should drop this year to 0.4% of the GDP (0.8% was foreseen).
4 - Agriculture
Spanish agriculture is not very productive. It employs 8.3% of the working population but only represents 3.3% of the GDP. The government has undertaken major restructuring to adapt to the new needs of the internal and external markets, for the moment we can only see the first effects. Financial investment has been considerable, backed up with an effort at competivity and a more aggressive commercial approach.

Spanish agriculture doesn't benefit from good natural conditions , suffering from yearly drought and poor soil. Management of water remains a problem because of its immoderate use and its unequal distribution throughout the regions.
Spain is spending a lot of money on improving its water network and protecting its wells and its water tables, it is investing heavily in purification and treatment centres to get up to the European standards.

41% of the total land in the country is farmed

The main products are barley (7.44 million tons), wheat (4.6 million tons) and grapes (it is the 3rd wine producing country in the world), rice, vegetables, cotton, tobacco, sugar beat, maize (3.525 million tons) and fruit (oranges = 2.707 million tons).

Spain is the 4th biggest exporter of oranges and the leading world producer of olive oil.

Livestock is made up of 49 million head, 23.7 million sheep and 21.6 million pigs. (1999)

Fishing is one of the most important economic sectors in Spain. 1.34 million tons were fished in 1997.
But since November 1999, Spanish fishermen have been forbidden to fish in Moroccan waters and this has led to the redundancy of 4,300 fishermen and 20,000 associated jobs (fish halls, ice factories, ship builders etc).
5 - Industry

35% of the labour force are employed in the industrial sector which represents about 35% of the GNP. Industry can be broken down into the following sectors :
electrical energy, iron and steel industries, textiles, shoes, toys, ship building (in the Alicante region), fish canning, car building, special steels, computer materials, aircraft frames and chemicals.
In 1999 all these branches of industry grew by 3.8% (even more in the car and textile sectors) and employment rose by 3.1%.

Mechanics and transport material are the leading sectors, followed by foodstuffs and chemicals.

Spain is the third biggest car manufacturer in Europe and the 5th in the world. In 1998 the sector represented 5.5% of the GDP, employed about 650,000 people and exported nearly 80% of its production (25% of the total Spanish exports). 1999 was a record year for the registration of private cars.

The sectors of energy, steel, telecommunications, transport and banks have all been or are being restructured.

The building sector is booming. Strong demand from both companies and households are encouraging its growth. Also, after having stopped for several years, the government has started infrastructural works again. Employment in this sector progressed by 11% in 1999.

Mining is very old fashioned. Coal mines continue to produce thanks to government subsidies which come from a 5% tax on electricity. The coal is of such a bad quality that no one wants it.

Spain is behind in modernizing its productive material due to insufficient research and up to date technology. This results in huge importation of equipment which leads to a structural deficit in the balance of trade.

Hydroelectricity and nuclear electricity is plentiful.

The sales of pharmaceutical products increased by 11% in 1998, which is the biggest increase among all the European countries.

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