Spanish Social Instability.

Spain´s transformation from a rigid, authoritarian, highly centralized regime into a pluralistic, liberal parliamentary democracy with considerable regional autonomy stands as one of the more remarkable political developments of the twentieth century. That this was accomplished without civil war or revolutionary upheaval and in the midst of unfavorable economic circumstances is all the more extraordinary. Despite decades of living under a repressive dictatorship, most Spanish citizens adapted readily to the new democratic system, and they turned out in large numbers for referenda and elections.

Spain is in the throes of the worst economic crisis in its recent history. Reeling from the collapse of a debt-driven construction boom, Spain entered recession in the second quarter of 2008 and posted six consecutive quarters of negative growth. Although the economy grew by 0.1 percent during the first quarter of 2010, Spain’s growth prospects are poor and any pick-up could be short lived.As unemployment soars, Spain is also facing an exploding budget deficit. The collapse of the labor market, which has resulted in a steep drop in tax collections, and the Socialist government’s spendthrift policy response of increasing unproductive public sector stimulus spending skyrocketed the deficit to 11.4 percent of GDP in 2009 (or five times higher than in 2008).

Spaniards who do have a job are not faring much better than those who do not. More than 50 percent of the country’s workforce belongs to a new social category popularly known as the mileuristas, those who earn less than €1000 a month. Roughly two in three Spanish workers (63 percent) earn less than €1100 a month, according to the Gestha union of tax inspectors.

But while Spanish and European authorities say budget cuts are necessary, experts warn the Spanish measures could be too much, too fast. A population already on edge could be galvanized to action. Social instability in a country the size of Spain, especially in rejection of European Union-imposed policies, could spread to other countries in the eurozone facing angry publics.


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