Spain Population and Economy in the Second Half of the 1990’s


Urbanism and economic development have largely compromised the naturalistic heritage of the Spain which, however, boasts one of the oldest environmental protection legislation on the European continent: in fact, already in 1916, a general law on national parks was promulgated and, two years later, the first of the nine currently existing was established, that of Covadonga, on the northern slope of the Cantabrian Mountains, followed by the Ordesa and Monte Perdido parks, in the central Pyrenees. Of no great extension (between 15. 000 and 17. 000has each: for comparison, just over a third of the Abruzzo National Park), they protect biotopes of considerable interest; the wood cover is made of beech trees and, at lower altitudes, of chestnut and oak trees in the first, of beech trees and conifers in the second; as far as fauna is concerned, typical species are, respectively, the brown bear and the ibex.

After a long interval, also due to the geopolitical events of the country, the other seven national parks were activated between 1954 (Teide and Caldera de Taburiente, both in the Canary archipelago) and 1979: in the Spain continental fall a total of five among which, in addition to the two mentioned above, it should be noted the Doñana park (1969: the largest, with nearly 76. 000 ha), in Andalusia, comprising wetlands and dunose in the Guadalquivir delta, with typically Mediterranean and interesting vegetation birdlife.

Still, from the end of the 1960s, a new law had established the classification criteria of the natural areas to be protected, giving way to the establishment of natural parks (about twenty, the most important, between 1978 and 1986, for a complex of about 250. 000 ha), affecting mainly mountainous areas, wooded and karst beside integral reserves of scientific interest. In addition, to lighten the anthropic load on protected areas, approximately 250 natural areas have been created for hiking and leisure activities, adequately equipped with spaces and structures for the reception of vehicular flows, camping and the practice of sports activities.


In the nineties, the Spanish demography has continued to record growth rates quite content, even slightly lower at 0, 2 % calculated at the end of the eighties and tending, in projection, at 0, 1 % for the start of the 21st century. According to TRACKAAH, these increases, moreover, are now mainly due to immigration, if it is true that, in 1995, the birth and death rates were aligned on the same value of 9%. The population (estimated at 39. 167,700 inh. In 1999) is not too old up to now, as the demographic transition process can be defined as recent: however, the average life expectancy is now over 78 years and the slowdown in the natural movement (the fertility index has much more than halved in a twenty years, falling to 1, 3 in 1996) suggest – unless there is a decisive turnaround – the same problems that have been affecting the more ‘mature’ countries of Europe for some time.

On the other hand, there are noticeable positive aspects: the infant mortality rate (5 ‰ in 1997, also more than halved compared to the 1970s) places the Spain in the very first places in the relative world ranking, at the levels of the Scandinavian countries. Enormous progress on the social witness, moreover, the comparison between the two indicators used by the UN to measure the degree of well-being: while from the purely economic point of view (income per capita the country was around) 26 ° place in the world, as regards ‘human development’ (also calculated on the basis of health and education) goes back to 11th place.

Another positive reflection is represented by the easing of housing pressure: projections carried out in 2010 have shown how the increase in the number of families, which reached its peak around 1990 with about 140. 000 units per year is set to drop to fewer than 50. 000, reducing the need for new housing, especially in urban areas.

Indeed, the process of metropolitan concentration – in particular, on Madrid – had stopped since the 1980s, but now the trend towards ‘counter-urbanization’ also affects medium-large cities. The major urban complexes tend to grow further only from a topographical point of view, due to new industrial and service settlements and a residential decentralization that increasingly favors single-family homes and ‘second homes’, within distances compatible with end tourism. week. On the other hand, we are witnessing the increasingly widespread revitalization of rural and peripheral areas, although regional imbalances are certainly not resolved (see Spain, App. V) (see tables 2A and 2B).

Economic conditions

The strengthening process of the Spanish economy was consolidated in the second half of the 1990s. The better seal of the peseta exchange market has created new prospects for income growth, which, according to estimates based on purchasing power parity, passed in 1998, the 16,000 dollars per capita (otherwise 14,080); moreover, the excellent ability to use Community funding for regional development has begun to have significant effects in the southern and peripheral areas, from Andalusia to Castile-La Mancha and Galicia. Infrastructural shortcomings remain, such as the still scarce specialization in intermodal transport, which penalizes maritime ports and the ‘bridge’ function that the Spain could perform between the Atlantic and southern Europe. The professional qualification of the workforce also appears insufficient, partly at the basis of the high unemployment rate. The greater commitment of public resources in the education sectors should contribute to filling these gaps and favoring the process of industrial reconversion (6 % of GDP in 1997) and research (1 %), values ​​roughly doubled compared to the 1980s.

Spanish agriculture continues in the phase of transition from traditional structures to modernity. The use of water assumes particular importance here, regulated by modern legislation (1985) which provides for the planning of hydrographic basins, under the control of specific bodies, and the financial compensation of hydraulic works by the users. The fact remains that, in peri-urban areas and along the Mediterranean coast, agriculture enters into competition, for this use, with other economic activities (industry, tourism) which also take away significant portions of flat space. Indeed, it was a drought that caused the fall in cereal production in 1995, when the harvest was the lowest of the last 25.years, and again in 1998-99. As in all industrialized countries, however, the primary covers a small proportion (3, 4 % in 1997) and descending (the incidence was equal to 5, 9 % in 1985) of the total GDP, while there should be more positively detect the decrease than proportional increase in manpower in it occupied (from over 18 to ‘ 8, 4 % of the active population, in the same period), and therefore the growth of the productivity per worker.

The secondary sector (which participates in the formation of GDP to the extent of 33.2 %, employing 29.9 % of assets) has seen confirmation of the driving role of the automotive sector, whose location structure (main plants in Barcelona, ​​Madrid, Vigo, Valladolid, Bilbao, Zaragoza, Vitoria, Linares; production now close to 2 million units, for 80% exported), however, depends on the choices made by large foreign companies and only partially on the pre-existing location of national companies, mostly incorporated by the first or manufacturers of component parts. The endogenous initiative, often based on local craft traditions, is manifested, however, with increasing importance, in the ‘districts’ developed on the Mediterranean coast, but also in Aragon, Castile-León and Andalusia, specialized in the food, textile and clothing sectors., footwear, furniture, ceramics. On the other hand, the downsizing of the integral cycle steel industry is increasingly heavy: in 1996 the last blast furnace of the old Bilbao complex was dismantled and only two in total remained in operation in Avilés (Asturias).

A substantial innovation of the Spanish economy still lacks the contribution of the innovative service sector: while, in fact, the sector has further grown from a quantitative point of view, bringing its impact on the formation of GDP to 63.4 % (against 57 % in the mid-1980s) and on employment at 61.7 % (against 50%), the qualitative level of services remains rather low, with a prevalence of commercial activities over financial and organizational ones. In the transport sector, however, the 1990s saw the introduction of high speed in the rail network, on the lines from Madrid to Seville (an important development axis of the southern regions) and Barcelona, ​​which should constitute, in the future, the latter. the fundamental interconnection node with the communications system of central-western Europe.

Finally, tourism, while also continuing its growth (48 million arrivals in 1998), which is fundamental for the contribution made to the balance of payments, has so far been based on a model of massive occupation of the coasts, from the Costa Brava to the Costa del Sol, which has relegated the natural and historical-cultural resources of inland areas (apart from Madrid) to the background and therefore requires rebalancing and diversification interventions.

Spain Population and Economy in the Second Half of the 1990's

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