The Spain, through the gradual process of democratization, the full application of the regional order (with the establishment of 17 autonomous communities) and the careful management of its resources and of the Euro-Community aid, has made much more conspicuous progress than those which they could be imagined in the second half of the 1980s, when the country, having entered the EEC, was considered a bulky Mediterranean appendage, in conditions barely better than those of the two ‘tail lights’, Portugal and Greece. However, the global crisis of 2009 had a strong impact on the Spanish economy, which after 16 years of growth recorded a contraction of 3.9%. The most pressing problems that the country today is havingaddressing and resolving are those of public debt (7.9% of GDP in 2009), unemployment (over 19% in 2009) and regional disparities. Unemployment, very unbalanced between the sexes (very high for women) and in the different parts of the country, shows particularly high values in the Cantabrian frame (the set of three autonomous communities of Cantabria, Asturias and the Basque Country), due to the decommissioning of many heavy industries. Regional disparities draw a clear dichotomy: on the one hand, a modernized and prosperous Spain, represented by the autonomous urban community of the capital and, above all, by Catalonia, which, making full use of the advantages offered by a statute of autonomy used in the best possible way and of an ancient industrial tradition, it ranks among the most advanced regions of the whole EU; on the other, a backward Spain, including the southern sections (essentially Andalusia, which, despite its Mediterranean agricultural and tourist resources, continues to suffer from an accentuated malaise, revealed by the very high rate of unemployment and by the values of other socio-economic indicators) and north-west of the country and, above all, the vast inland areas. Other negative aspects of the Spanish economy are represented by the energy deficit which weighs heavily on the trade balance and which determines a significant increase in inflation.
Primary activities. Overall, the productivity of Spanish agriculture remains somewhat distant from that recorded by the other member countries of the European Union: the land structure, still characterized by fragmentation that does not allow innovative applications of production factors, and the scarcity of water are the main structural limits. However, through a wise management of the substantial aid disbursed by the European Union, an organic policy of planning the use of water and the construction of reservoirs was initiated. Despite the sharp decrease in the number of employees (4.2% of the workforce in 2008), Spain however, it remains an important agricultural country. Cereal growing, in particular, still marks the agricultural landscape of Spain arida (secanos), providing large quantities of product (116 million q of barley; 63 of wheat; 36 of corn). But there are other productions that have relevance worldwide and that guarantee profitability and competitiveness even to medium-small companies: citrus fruits (in absolute prevalence oranges and mandarins: 51.4 million q in 2007, first European producer and sixth in the world), produced in the Mediterranean regions; the olive tree, grown on vast and rationally organized expanses, often of recent planting and therefore with high productivity, especially in Andalusia, Extremadura and New Castile (57 million q of olives; 12 of oil, greater world production); the vine, widespread almost everywhere, Navarra, La Rioja, La Mancha, Valencia, Andalusia); other table fruit (apples, peaches, pears, bananas), vegetables (first fruits) and flowers, more and more often in forced cultivation or in the huertas of Arab and Mediterranean tradition or, again, in the recently built irrigation areas (regadíos), which they updated and disseminated the huerta model also in the central and northern regions. In particular, the greatest efforts to upgrade and reconvert crops have been directed to horticulture, thanks to the creation of new irrigation perimeters, but industrial crops (sugar beet, tobacco, cotton and sunflower) have also been strengthened. they adapt to the prevailing cultivation conditions in the peninsula. Since the 1990s there have been notable successes of new crops, such as that of kiwifruit. In the context of the rural economy, especially in some regions, the contribution of forestry (14 million m3 of timber per year), practiced in the north-western part of the country, is significant, while Catalonia, Andalusia and especially Extremadura are the production areas of cork (of which Spain is the main world producer together with Portugal).
● Strengthened by a deeply rooted tradition, sheep farming (21 million head) continues to be of considerable importance in the European context; Spain is also one of the largest pig farmers in the world (26 million). Cattle farming (6 million) is practiced in the northern regions, humid and with good quality natural pastures, and covers the needs of milk and meat. A long tradition of fishing activity is still ascribed to the northern regions, once the driving force of the port economies of the Atlantic belt, today also lively in the Andalusian ports: with 1.1 million tonnes of fish per year (mainly from ocean fishing) and a modern organizational structure, both in the armament of the fleet and in the treatment of product, the Spanish fishing sector is one of the most developed in Europe.
Industry. The industrial sector occupies 24% of the active population. Following the entry into EU Europe, Spain had to accelerate the conversion process of its old production apparatus, closing many of the coal and iron mines and decommissioning many of the steel and shipbuilding plants, especially in the Cantabrian frame. Overall, however, the Spanish industrial system is quite developed and well balanced between the various production sectors and supports a consistent flow of exports.
● The availability of minerals, at the origin of the industrialization of the Spain, already known and widely exploited in antiquity, is still a considerable resource today. Iron ore, which is extracted mainly in the province of Vizcaya and in Asturias, together with hard coal (11 million tons per year in 2008, and also 6 tons of lignite) also obtained in the Asturian area, as well as in minor deposits elsewhere, was the location factor for the Atlantic steel industry, still well represented in Vizcaya, Asturias (Avilés, Gijón), Santander etc., while the Catalan one, in the Barcelona area, is oriented towards the production of special steels. Overall, the production of pig iron is equal to 4 million tons, that of steel to 19 million (2008). Also interesting is the presence of other relatively precious metals (lead and zinc) and that of pyrites with a high sulfur content, fluorite, magnesite and potassium salts, raw materials for basic chemical productions, which have undergone a remarkable development (Catalonia) . Shipbuilding production was grafted onto the steel industry, still relatively lively despite the recent generalized contraction of the sector in Europe (El Ferrol, Cartagena, Bilbao, Barcelona, Cadiz), and mechanical ones (Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia), in which a very particular development has led to the manufacture of motor vehicles, well distributed in various production centers, which, in turn, supports a highly developed rubber industry (Barcelona). The Catalan textile sector and the food sector, very widespread in the area, retain their traditional importance, while the most recent activities related to telecommunications and electronics show good dynamism. The use of imports for conventional energy sources remains quite heavy, despite the fact that several thermonuclear power plants are in operation. Overall, the Spanish industrial system is quite developed and well balanced between the various production sectors and supports a consistent flow of exports.
Tertiary. The service sector absorbs about 71% of the workforce (mostly employed in activities connected with tourism). Starting from the last decade of the 20th century. there has been, almost exclusively in the culturally and economically more advanced communities, and especially in Catalonia, a significant growth and diffusion of the advanced tertiary sector. Tourism represents one of the most important sources of income and Spain is at the top of the world rankings of arrivals (59 million units in 2008). For Spain 2005, please check ehealthfacts.org.
● One of the structural elements that most receive strengthening interventions is the terrestrial communications system. The network railway (15,288 km in 2008, slightly more than half electrified), certainly in part still inadequate to the needs of the country and moreover seriously tied to the morphological characteristics, has undergone a major restructuring: the completion of the high-speed European gauge. The road network makes use of approximately 14,600 km of motorways. Air transport, largely based on international connections, appears to be well positioned on the world market. The main ports are those of Barcelona and Bilbao. ● Taken as a whole, Spain’s foreign trade shows a constant deficit, partly due to the increase in imports of energy products, but perhaps to a greater extent due to diversification and very rapid growth in consumption. as well as efforts to accelerate the adjustment of the economy to European levels. Moreover, the deficit is partially offset by the massive inflow of foreign currency produced by international tourism, which has maintained a positive trend for many years. The main partners are the countries of the European Union (France, Germany, Italy and Great Britain) and the United States.