The country, its people and quality of life

2.1 Geography, climate and living conditions

The Kingdom of Spain occupies an area of 505,970 square kilometers in the southwest of Europe, and is the second largest country in the EU. The territory of Spain covers most of the Iberian Peninsula, which it shares with Portugal, and also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla and several small islands.

Despite differences among the various regions of Spain, the country can be said to have a typical Mediterranean climate. The weather in the northern coastal region (looking onto the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay) is mild and generally rainy throughout the year, with temperatures neither very low in the winter nor very high in the summer. The climate on the Mediterranean coastline, including the Balearic Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, is mild in the winter and hot and dry in the summer. The most extreme differences occur in the interior of the Peninsula, where the climate is dry, with cold winters and hot summers. The Canary Islands have a climate of their own, with temperatures constantly around 20 degrees Celsius and only minor variations in temperature between seasons or between day and night.

Spain has an excellent quality of life and is very open to foreigners. Almost 8,000 kilometers of coastline, abundant sporting facilities and events and social opportunities are crowned by the diversity of the country’s cultural heritage as a crossroads of civilizations (Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs, Jews, etc.).

2.2 Population and human resources

The population of Spain in 2017 was 46.6 million people, with a population density of more than 92 inhabitants per square kilometer.

Spain is a markedly urban society (see Table 1), as evidenced by the fact that 32% of the population lives in provincial capitals.

Table 1


Madrid 3,182,981
Barcelona 1,620,809
Valencia 787,808
Seville 689,434
Zaragoza 664,938
Málaga 569,002
Murcia 443,243
Mallorca 406,492
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria 377,650
Bilbao 345,110
* Figures refer only to the municipal districts of each city.
Source: Report on registered population of Spanish provincial capital cities at January 1, 2017. National Statistics Institute/Official State Gazette.

Spanish is the official language of the country. There are other Spanish languages that are also official in the corresponding Autonomous Communities (regions), according to their “Statutes of Autonomy”. Education is compulsory until the age of 16 and English is the main foreign language studied at school.

Spain has a labor force of 22.8 million people according to the Labor Force Survey (released in the fourth quarter of 2017). Spain’s population is relatively young: 16% is under 16 years old, 65% is between 16 and 64 years old, and only 19% is 65 and over, according to 2017 figures. As highlighted in Table 2, Spain has a highly diverse multicultural and multiracial population.

Table 2


  2015 2016 2017*
Europe 2,654,473 2,755,919 2,809,050
America 904,335 867,986 877,013
Asia 392,161 408,183 417,742
Africa 1,027,944 1,018,242 1,024,141
Oceania 2,073 2,275 2,349
Unknown 1,197 1,282 1,296
TOTAL 4,982,183 5,053,887  5,131,591
Source: Ministry of Labor, Migration and Social Security3.
*Data at June 30, 2017.

Spain is particularly noted for the contribution from, and the integration of, these groups, as well as for the absence of cultural conflict.

Spain’s labor force structure by economic sector underwent significant changes sometime ago, with there was an increase in the active population in the services sector and a decrease in the number of workers employed in farming and industry. Today, the services sector is by far Spain’s main employer (Chart 1 and Table 3).

Chart 1


Source: National Statistics Institute.

Table 3


SECTOR (Percentage)

  2015 2016 2017
Agriculture 4.3 4.4 4.3
Industry 13.6 14.0 14.3
Construction 5.9 5.8 6.0
Services 76.2 75.8 75.4
Source: National Statistics Institute.
2017. Labor Force Survey.

The labor force is highly qualified and capable of adapting to technological changes.

Lastly, in keeping with the commitment entered into with the European Union to promote job creation, the Spanish government has implemented significant reforms to the job market in recent years, introducing a greater degree of flexibility in employment.

Like our neighboring countries, and as a result of the global economic crisis of past years and the changing economy, which has moved away from labor-intensive sectors towards highly technological sectors, the unemployment rate in Spain increased. In order to definitively overcome the consequences of such crisis, Spain launched an ambitious program of structural reform with a view to boosting economic growth and creating jobs.

The Spanish Government, in keeping with the commitments entered into by the European Union to promote employment, implemented major labor market reforms in line with the trends observed in neighboring countries and the proposals made by various economic agents and institutions and international economic advisers. The reforms aimed to introduce greater flexibility, reduced the dual nature of the job market and improved the employability of workers. This, among other factors, has led to the creation of 1.5 million jobs since 2014.

A number of procedures have also been introduced to facilitate the entry, residence and permanence in Spain, for reasons of general interest, of foreigners who plan to invest and create jobs in Spain or who are highly qualified professionals.

2.3 Political institutions

Spain is a parliamentary monarchy. The King is the Head of State4 and his primary mission is to arbitrate and moderate the correct functioning of the country’s institutions in accordance with the Constitution. He also formally ratifies the appointment or designation of the highest holders of public office in the legislative, executive and judicial branches5.

The Constitution of 1978 enshrined the fundamental civil rights and public freedoms as well as assigning legislative power to the Cortes Generales (Parliament)6, executive power to the Government of the nation, and judicial powers to independent judges and magistrates.

The responsibility for enacting laws is entrusted to the Cortes Generales, comprising the Congreso de los Diputados (Lower House of Parliament) and the Senado (Senate), the members of which are elected by universal suffrage every four years.

The Cortes Generales exercise the legislative power of the nation, approve the annual State budgets, control the actions of the Government and ratify international treaties.

The Govermentis headed by the Presidente del Gobierno (President of the Government) who is elected by the Cortes Generales and is, in turn, in charge of electing the members of the Consejo de Ministros (Council of Ministers). The members of the Council of Ministers are appointed and removed by the President of the Government at his or her discretion.

For administrative purposes, Spain is organized into 17 Autonomous Communities (Regions) each of which generally comprises one or more provinces, plus the Autonomous Cities of Ceuta and Melilla in Northern Africa and the total number of provinces is 50.

Each Autonomous Community (Region) exercises the powers assigned to it by the Constitution as specified in its “Statute of Autonomy”. These Statutes also stipulate the institutional organization of the Community concerned, consisting generally of: a legislative assembly elected by universal suffrage, which enacts legislation applicable in the Community; a Government with executive and administrative functions, headed by a President elected by the Assembly, who is the Community’s highest representative; and a Superior Court of Justice, in which judicial power in the Community’s territory is vested. A Delegate appointed by the Central Government directs the Administration of the State in the Autonomous Community (Region), and co-ordinates it with the Community’s administration.

The Autonomous Communities (Regions) are financially autonomous and also receive allocations from the general State budgets.

As a result of the structure described above Spain has become one of the most decentralized countries in Europe.

3    http://extranjeros.empleo.gob.es/es/Estadisticas/operaciones/con-certificado/201706/Residentes_Tablas_PR_30-06-2017.pdf

4    http://www.casareal.es/ES/Paginas/home.aspx

5    http://www.poderjudicial.es/cgpj/?Template=default

6    http://www.congreso.es/portal/page/portal/Congreso/Congreso

7    http://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/Paginas/index.aspx