Country Listing

Spain Table of Contents



Throughout much of the twentieth century, there has been a dramatic shift in the makeup of the Spanish population and in the nature of its employment. As late as the 1920s, 57 percent of Spain's active population was concentrated in agriculture. During the next 30 years, the number of people employed in this sector fell by only 10 percent. Starting in 1950, however, the sector's share of the work force fell by close to 10 percent each decade, so that by the early 1980s its share had shrunk to about 15 percent. Even after the economic transformation in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, agricultural employment continued to fall steadily--by an estimated 4 percent per year between 1976 and 1985. Migration from rural regions to areas where employment was available led to the virtual depopulation of a number of rural towns and provinces, especially those in the middle of the country (see Migration , ch. 2.)

The evolution in the size and the composition of the working population offered an index to the country's modernization process. Since the 1920s, the number of workers employed in industry and services had virtually doubled. Industry's share of the work force had gone from about 20 percent in 1920 to a high point of 38 percent in 1975, after which it had begun to decline, dropping to 32 percent by 1985. The service sector had grown steadily, from 20 percent of the work force in 1920 to 52 percent in 1985, declining only during the bleak 1940s. It had surpassed the industrial sector at the end of the boom years in the mid1970s , when it accounted for about 40 percent of the work-force. Despite the economic slump of the 1975-85 period, the service sector grew strongly--an indication of Spain's development toward a postindustrial society and its increasing resemblance to the economic structures of other West European countries.

Spain has been fairly constant in the portion of its population actively involved in the economy. For all of the twentieth century, just over one-third of the population has either had a job or has been looking for one. A high point was reached in 1965, when 38.5 percent of all Spaniards were in the work force. During the 1980s, the figure hovered at about 33 to 34 percent.

Compared with other West European countries, however, Spain has been distinguished by the low participation of women in the work force. In 1970 only 18 percent of the country's women were employed, compared with 26 percent in Italy and 30 to 40 percent in northern Europe. During the 1980s, female employment increased, but women still made up less than 30 percent of the economically active population, considerably less than they did in Finland, for example, where nearly half of all those employed were female and where three-quarters of all women worked outside the home. Female participation in the labor market was increasing in the second half of the 1980s, and it had jumped 2 percent between 1985 and 1987, when, according to an OECD report, it reached 29.9 percent in mid-1987. El Pais, a respected daily, reported that there were 3.5 million women in the work force of 15 million at the end of 1987, which gave them a share of about 32 percent of the total.

Data as of December 1988