- Unlike Britain, where disparities in income have been growing wider, the gap between rich and poor in Spain has gradually been narrowing. In Britain the poorest 40 percent of the population receives 14.6 percent of the national income; in Spain the same proportion receives 21 percent. The difference between the disposable income of the poorest 10 percent of households and the richest 10 percent has narrowed significantly, largely as a result of the redistributive effect of fiscal and social welfare legislation (see also national income). Nevertheless as the accompanying table indicates there is still a marked disparity of disposable income between the poorest households and the richest.While the poverty threshold in a given society cannot be objectively established, if we take half of average income as the dividing line between poverty and sufficiency, a Spanish family in which Income levels of Spanish households and population according to FOESSA the income per person is below 38,000 pesetas per month at 1992 prices could reasonably be classed as poor in relation to the bulk of the population. As we can see from the table, applying this basic criterion would mean that some 17 percent of Spanish households (accounting for about a fifth of the population) would be classified as poor, a slightly lower proportion than in Britain (although in neither case can we speak of destitution), and some allowance may need to be made for the fact that the FOESSA survey was carried out in 1993, a time of severe recession when unemployment in Spain had reached an historic high of 3.6 million.Inadequate material means by reference to a given norm is by definition what characterizes poverty, but both the level of poverty and the conditions which produce it vary substantially. In Spain, according to the Fifth FOESSA Report of 1993, 3.6 percent of the population lives in what the authors term severe poverty (below one quarter of average income) and 16.5 percent lives in relative poverty (between one quarter and one half of average income). The condition of poverty invariably displays concomitant features of which the following are the most common: long-term unemployment; temporary, poorly remunerated employment; large families subsisting on state benefits; elderly people on minimum pensions; lack of educational qualifications; illegal immigrant status; drug addiction; and social marginalization. Finally, it is worth noting that regional differences in wealth are very marked in Spain, with poorer regions having a GDP per capita half that of the richer regions. Income differentials are often spatially conditioned, with incomes in rural areas being far below those in urban areas, whilst migration into the cities has contributed to the creation of an urban underclass lacking in means. Despite the general atmosphere of prosperity and wealth, begging is an extremely common sight in Spanish cities.Further reading- Córdoba Ordóñez, J. and García Alvarado, J.M. (1991) Geografía de la pobreza y la desigualdad, Madrid: Editorial Síntesis (less complete than the FOESSA report but more readable).- Fundación FOESSA (1994) V Informe sociológico sobre la situación social de España, Madrid: Fundación FOESSA, vol. 1, pp. 273–334 (the social survey of Spain par excellence and an indispensable sociological tool). Longhurst,- C.A. (1997) "Poverty Amidst Affluence in Contemporary Spain", International Journal of Iberian Studies, Vol.10: 3, 133–146 (a review of the problem for the non-specialist).C. A. LONGHURST
Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.