For about a generation after the end of the Civil War, Spanish society still retained a great deal of its traditional character: conservative in politics and religion, hierarchical, male-dominated, predominantly rural and economically backward. In all of these respects, and in many others, Spanish society has undergone profound changes, and now displays fewer differences from the societies of other advanced western democracies. These changes cannot be ascribed, however, simply to the ending of the Franco dictatorship in 1975, nor, indeed, to any single factor, but are the result of a complex process of modernization which began during the regime.
   Of the various factors that have transformed society and produced significant shifts in social attitudes, the most influential was arguably the General Education Law of 1970, which for the first time made education compulsory and free to age 14, and was the starting-point for a series of subsequent reforms over the next twenty years. Chronologically speaking, however, one can date the beginnings of the change from the Stabilization Plan of 1959, which began to shift the balance of the Spanish economy from agriculture to industry. The move to an industrial and service base intensified the existing pattern of migration from countryside to city, which within a generation resulted in a predominantly urban, rather than rural population distribution: by the 1990s 80 percent lived in towns or cities of 50,000 inhabitants or over.
   Nor was mobility of people confined within Spain, for the 1960s saw not only the opening up of the country to tourism, but also an increase in the numbers of those seeking work in countries such as France, (West) Germany, Switzerland and Great Britain. This two-way movement led to enhanced awareness of the freedoms enjoyed by citizens who lived in countries with democratic systems, and helped to create a more questioning attitude towards the traditional authoritarian structures of Spanish society. Furthermore, increasing prosperity and the higher earning capacity of those working in new manufacturing, assembly and service sectors produced a realignment of class structures, with about half of those defined as working class in 1960 moving up into the middle class by 1980. The social impact of economic change would, however, have been less dramatic if it had not been accompanied by the wider availability of education (see also education and research). Though the 1970 law did not achieve its aim of providing free education to all, it was the first stage in a process of radical reform which embraced all levels of school and university provision. Compared to 1960, there were eight times as many young people receiving secondary education in 1980, and four times as many attending higher education institutions. Legislation such as the LODE, LOGSE and LRU expanded and diversified the curriculum, reduced the gap between academic and vocational education, and gave both pupils and parents a greater say in the running of schools, further eroding the culture of deference which had been a feature of Spanish society not only during the Franco era but long before.
   One of the most visible results of the expansion of education has been the profound change in the position of women, in terms of participation in the labour market, diversification of the kinds of employment open to them, and personal freedom. It is true that women's salaries tend to be about 20 percent lower than men's earnings, and female unemployment is higher, but this is probably not radically different from the position in other countries in western Europe. More significantly, however, the proportion of working women with educational qualifications has undergone a spectacular increase in the twenty years to 1990, with ten times as many educated to secondary level and eleven times as many having degrees. These changes have been accompanied by rapid secularization and liberalization, particularly in areas such as sexual behaviour. Though surveys carried out in the 1990s show that as many as 90 percent profess adherence to Roman Catholicism, regular attendance at Sunday worship is only around 30 percent. Even during the Franco period, the church's prohibition of contraception was commonly flouted, as often by practising Catholics as by others, and illegal abortions are estimated to have run at about 40 for every hundred live births. Survey evidence suggests that fewer people have religious or moral objections to premarital sex, cohabitation or divorce than in the 1970s. Furthermore, the lifting of censorship in films and printed matter has further intensified the atmosphere of permissiveness in matters of individual behaviour.
   This greater freedom is most obvious among the young, whose general lifestyle and attitudes differ little from those of their counterparts elsewhere. The Madrid Movida of the 1970s has exhausted its initial momentum, but in all of the large towns and cities there is a vibrant youth culture, expressed in music (see also rock and pop), nightclubbing, fast driving and designer drugs (see also drug problem). Not all the drugtaking in Spain is attributable to this group, as marginalized and poverty-stricken individuals of all ages are often users of hard drugs like heroin, and there is widespread use of cocaine. One of the clearest symptoms of the liberalization in attitudes is the fact that the socialist PSOE government legalized the private and public use of narcotics in 1983, though it restricted consumption to private use in 1992. Drugs have clearly been a factor in the increase in crime and the spread of AIDS.
   Despite the dramatic nature of the changes which have taken place since 1970, however, there are still respects in which Spain remains relatively traditional. The family, for example, is still an important institution. Eight out of every ten respondents to attitude surveys cite the family as an important element in their lives, and the proportion of singleperson households is half that of other western European countries, most of these households being occupied by widowed persons. Though sex and parenthood outside marriage have become socially acceptable, the rate of births to single mothers is low by comparison with the rest of western Europe, and the same is true of the divorce rate. For those who do marry, i.e. the vast majority of those living together, the church wedding is still the norm, despite the increased neglect of church teaching and discipline. The residual cultural influence of Catholicism is considerable, as can be seen from the numbers of non-believers who, for example, have their children baptized.
   Further reading
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (social change is dealt with throughout the book, but the following chapters will be found particularly relevant: 1, 5, 6, 9, and 10–25).
   - Graham, H. and Labanyi, J. (eds) (1995) Spanish Cultural Studies, an Introduction: The Struggle for Modernity, Oxford: Oxford University Press (part IV gives an excellent insight into the subject).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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