by Luis Vilacha Fernandez. Originally published on 2014/03/06
Spain has changed dramatically. Four years after the budgetary measures began; the government realized that it would not be possible to keep the welfare state as it was until today. After the cutbacks started, the possibilities to study at university or receive medical assistance have decreased. Literally, since last September students have to pay an increased tax of 540€, (France 24, 2012), compared with the same rates of last year just to attend the university. In addition, due to the budget cuts, the government has reduced and cancelled most of the scholarships and grants that existed before. Also banks, have decided to eliminate the grants and loans that have existed for university students and mainly, Master and PhD students.
These economic measures have created a significant gap among new generations of self-financed students and those which are not capable to finance their studies. Nowadays, there is a whole generation of pre-university students and also graduate students with no future perspectives for a professional career. In other words, young Spaniards will not become that person they have dreamed to be in the future due to the new educational policy. Besides, finding a job instead of studying is increasingly difficult as well. The youth unemployment rate in Spain is currently 57, 7% (INE, 2013), resulting to be the highest in Europe at this moment. Consequently, Spain has a new generation of qualified emigrants leaving the country, similar to 1950s after the end of the Spanish Civil War.
Likewise, the Healthcare System is also in a difficult situation after the austerity measures launched by the government with the aim to reduce the public debt in the administration. These measures are driving the Spanish healthcare system into a dangerous situation. The austerity measures are leading Spain into health problems that can already be found in Greece, where there is an increase of HIV and tuberculosis cases due to the budget cuts in the healthcare system, (Reuters, 2013). In Spain, the earliest evidence on the influence of these budget cuts on the social security system has started to show its consequences, with addicted people who are now feeling unprotected after years of treatment to be reintroduced into the society (El País, 2013).
Is there any form of public reaction for the shutdown of the welfare state in Spain these days?
For the first time in years people are demanding corrupt politicians to resign. Unfortunately, the day this will actually happen is yet to come. In fact, the regional government in Madrid, ruled by the Partido Popular, has recently announced to privatise several hospitals to reduce the administrational debt. This decision would it make harder to receive assistance to those people with special needs like different surgeries, transplantations, and so on.
Luckily, last January 27th, the regional government of Madrid decided to cancel their plans to privatise the healthcare system after the Madrid regional High Court considered the process to be illegal after several irregularities were discovered in the bidding process for the hospitals (El País, 2014). This achievement has been obtained after several lawsuits and demonstrations from doctors, surgeons, nurses and different public administration professionals in the streets of Madrid. Likewise, there have also been different demonstrations in the capital and in other regions to protest against the budget measures in the public educational system, with no response from the central government yet. Meanwhile the polls suggest they will win the elections again.
In 2010 the government of former Spanish President, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE), launched one of the deepest cutbacks in modern Spanish history with the aim to reduce the debt in the public administration. Since November 2011, when Mariano Rajoy (PP) won the elections and became the President of Spain, the budgetary measures have gone even deeper. The welfare state, which Spaniards used to enjoy is passing away while politicians have begun to occupy their personal trenches to not resign, neither accept what they have ruined. If politicians are not resigning these days it is because people still have some sort of hope in the future. In other words, there are some people that still think that demonstrations against the so called, ‘’Spanish Political Class’’ are unnecessary. The conformity showed by Spaniards, together with the lack of institutional response has produced general dissatisfaction and distrust among citizens. According to Villoria (2013), if there is a common belief that the public administrators and politicians are going to cheat, everyone will have the incentive to act in the same corrupt way, as acting honestly will mean losses.
All these motives make emigration a necessary solution for many young Spaniards who seek their future elsewhere. These days there are so many high qualified students in Spain, students who have received scholarships and grants over the past years but now all these investments in the future generations are leaving the country, most of whom will probably never return.
Instituto Nacional de Estadística, INE (2013). Activity and unemployment rates by sex, age and group, by Autonomous Community. [Online] Madrid: http://www.ine.es/jaxiBD/tabla.do?per=03&type=db&divi=EPA&idtab=28
Marcos, José (2014). Madrid abruptly cancels plans to outsource management at public hospitals. El País In English. Available from: http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/01/27/inenglish/1390844787_448815.html
Mazoue, Aude. (2012). School lunches fall victim to Spanish Austerity. France 24. Available from: http://www.france24.com/en/20120811-spain-debt-crisis-austerity-measures-education-spending-cuts-school-lunch-reforms
Villoria, Manuel., Van Rizyn, Gregg G. and Lavena, Cecilia F. Social and Political Consequences of Administrative Corruption: A Study of Public Perceptions in Spain. Public Administration Review. Vol. 73. No. 1 (January/February 2013), pp.85-94