spanish extended family
An extended family gathering in Spain, 2007. Photo: Wikimedia / ojedamd

 

Fewer marriages, broken marriages and the difficulty of reconciling work and family life are leading reasons why the family in Spain is in deep trouble, according to a new report from the Institute for Family Policies (IPFE). The Spanish pro-family organisation says the family in Spain is increasingly one without children and often of lone adults. (The full study can be downloaded at: http://ipfe.org/España/)

This bleak picture has been compounded by the economic crisis, says the report. While economic hardship presents an opportunity to rediscover the family, which has the potential for cushioning the individual against unemployment, illness, lack of housing, drug addiction and marginalisation, the government has failed to play its part in protecting families, the report suggests.

Adverse trends in all aspects of family life are so marked, according to the IPFE, “that we can say that, today, the rights of the family are not guaranteed in Spain; in particular, the right of parents to have the number of children they want, the right of parents and children to a marriage and family stability, the right to reconcile work and family life and the right of the father and mother to free choice in the education their children.

“This means that, among all the countries of the EU, Spain gives the least help and protection to the family.” There is no political will to help and protect the family, IPFE says. As a result, the situation of families in Spain continues to decline, while in countries that have implemented a comprehensive policy on family support, indicators have improved.  

The report, “Evolution of the family in Spain 2014”, consists of three parts:  

* An analysis of the situation of the family in Spain and the Autonomous Communities and their evolution over the past 30 years on issues such as birth, marriage and households. In addition, this report has added two new chapters: “reconciliation of work and family life” and the “impact of economic crisis in the family.” The aim is to give a more complete picture of the situation of the Spanish family today.  

* An analysis of the evolution of the various policies that the central government has implemented at this time compared with other EU countries.  

* Proposals for a set of measures that the Family Policy Institute considers indispensable for a true, comprehensive family policy, and the implementation of public policies with family perspective.  

Family decline by the numbers

1. Demographic: Spain is immersed in an unprecedented demographic winter, as these data show:

Total fertility (1.32 children per woman) is so low that it ranks amongst the worst in Europe (ranked 26th in the UE28). Asturias (1.06), Canarias (1.07) and Galicia (1.08) have a critical birth rate.

Abortion: There is an explosion in the number of abortions (112,390 per year, i.e. 1 abortion every 4.7 minutes), giving Spain the third highest rate in the UE28. They have already produced more than 1.8 million abortions since it was legalized in 1985. In 2014 the number is expected to exceed 2 million.

Marriage: There is a collapse in the number of marriages (51,997 fewer than in 1990 despite population increase during this period) and an increase in unmarried couples (there are 1.5 million unmarried couples).

Family breakups. Of 110,764 ruptures a year: 104,262 divorces (94.1%), 6,369 separations (5.8%) and 133 annulments (0.1%). A marriage breaks every 4.7 minutes in Spain. A total of more than 2.7 million ruptures since 1981 has affected more than 2 million children. Boosting the rate of breakups is the “express divorce” law of 2005.

Work and family balance: There is virtually no labour market lexibility. Compared with other EU countries, fewer people can benefit from maternity leave or request leave of absence, and fewer people can be devoted to the care of their families.

2. The impact of the economic crisis on the family has been devastating.

Unemployment: 2 out of 3 of the unemployed are spouses and/or key persons in the home. Their number has risen from 1.1 million in 2007 (58%) to over 3.7 million people in 2013 (64%).

Family income. The average household income is in free fall. Most affected are families with 3 or more children, which have lost an average of €9,200 in the 2007-2012 period – a 19% drop in income.

Salaries. Salaries in Spain have been losing purchasing power since 2009, which has caused a steady decline in real average wage for families.

Household Consumption and Mortgages. Household spending has declined 11% in just five years. The number of mortgages is down by more than 1 million a year over the past 7 years, giving a total decline of 80%.

3. The notable abandonment of the Spanish family by the government, making Spain last in Europe in terms of aid and protection to families:  

Family agencies. Spain’s family agency exists at the fourth level of the government administration, while committed countries of Europe have a first-tier Family Ministry.

Plans and family law. The central government not only has not made any laws or plans to support the family, but is also systematically failing most of its election commitments. There is no Family law, nor has it made any Comprehensive Plan for Family Support (PIAF) There is no law protecting motherhood, nor is there is a comprehensive plan to promote the reconciliation of work, private and family life; nor is there any law to prevent marital breakdown by providing mediation.

Budgetary allocations. The budgetary allocations for the family are negligible. While Europe (UE28) on average allocates 2.3% of GDP for the family, Spain spends at most 1.4% of its GDP, making it amongst the lowest in the EU28 and second lowest in the EU13.

Family assistance is small and discriminatory. Unlike the rest of the EU, most Spanish families do not qualify for tax relief that applies only when combined household income sinks to €11,519.6 year. Spain also grants benefits to fewer families than do other EU countries.

The above article is a translated and edited version of a press release by Eduardo Hertfelder de Aldecoa of IPFE.

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet