standard of living

standard of living
   Although there is no single agreed measure for comparing living standards across different countries, there can be no doubt that in absolute terms the standard of living of the average Spaniard has improved beyond recognition in the past thirty years. Even in relative terms there has been some improvement in Spain's position. For example, on joining the EC in 1986 Spain's per capita GDP was two-thirds that of the Community average; by 1991 it was 79 percent. After three years of recession it had fallen back to 77 percent by 1994, but it is expected to reach 80 percent by the turn of the century, reflecting the fact that economic down-turns and upturns tend to be more marked in Spain than the average for the EU. With a GNP per capita of $14,020 (1992 figures), Spain occupies twelfth position in the EU of fifteen countries, behind the UK in eleventh position with $17,760, and a long way behind Luxembourg at the top with a GNP per capita of $35,260. If, however, we use per capita GDP adjusted for purchasing power parity, the differences between the wealthier and the less wealthy countries are considerably reduced: Spain appears with $12,200 compared to the UK with $15,420 and Luxembourg with $20,540. The differences in standard of living also have a geographical dimension within Spain itself. The wealthiest region by per capita GDP, the Balearics, is well above the EU average, while the next two, Madrid and Catalonia, are very close to the EU average. At the other end of the scale are Extremadura and Andalusia with per capita GDPs which are below 60 percent of the EU average. However, these large differences are attenuated somewhat if we consider disposable income of households (ie. after taxes, social security transfers and purchasing power adjustments), although they do not disappear. Furthermore there are significant differences even within the regions themselves between town and country, city and town, or coast and hinterland. The standard of living, however, is not simply a matter of income measures. Other considerations affect the quality of life of a nation. The UN index of human development, for example, incorporates such aspects as life expectancy, literacy, educational enrolments, alongside the more usual per capita income adjusted for purchasing power parity. In such an index Spain does remarkably well, appearing in ninth position, ahead of countries such as Sweden, Germany or the UK which have a higher standard of living in purely monetary terms. Other indicators of living standards suggest that Spain is, if not in the premier division of countries such as USA, Japan and Switzerland, then in the first division alongside most other western European nations. Such indicators include number of consumer durables per 1,000 inhabitants, such as television sets, telephones or cars. All these measures place Spain among the fully developed nations, although not near the very top except for television sets. Figures for life expectancy at birth and infant mortality are among the very best in the world, while homelessness is lower than in the UK, Germany or France. The one major blot on the landscape of a prosperous and contented nation is the continuing high level of unemployment.
   See also: national income

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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