The social position of women has undergone a remarkable change in post-Franco Spain. Women hold public office as judges, ambassadors, mayors, government ministers, and university rectors, as well as obtaining jobs in sectors from which they had traditionally been barred or discouraged, such as the police, the armed forces, and public transport. Although pressure from feminist movements cannot be discounted, the fundamental cause of the emancipation of Spanish women is the enormous increase in female participation in education, both secondary and post-compulsory. This began in the late 1960s, accelerated dramatically in the 1970s, and culminated in the 1980s in a higher proportion of females at both secondary school and university. As a result of pressure from Section Femenina (the female section of Falange) in the 1960s, early Francoist legislation discriminating against women had been virtually dismantled by the time the dictator died in 1975, and the democratic constitution of 1978 declared sexual discrimination illegal, as did the Workers" Statute of 1980.
   Subsequent democratic governments took more positive steps to redress the balance, through the setting up in 1983 of the publicly financed Instituto de la Mujer to conduct research into the economic and social situation of Spanish women, and the establishment of the First Equal Opportunities Plan (1988–90), later followed by the Second Plan. The legalization of the sale of contraceptives (1978) and the de-criminalization of abortion under certain conditions (1985) were further important concessions to women's rights.
   Nevertheless, some degree of discrimination appears to remain in the labour market, both in terms of salaries and in offers of employment. Female salaries are on average 20 percent lower than male salaries, while female unemployment hovers around 25 percent of the workforce compared to about 15 percent for males. The high unemployment rate among women is, however, attributable in part to the rapid rise in the female labour force (up from 3.5 million in the mid-1970s to 5.7 million twenty years later), which the economy has been unable to absorb. Despite these difficulties there are now more women than ever in jobs, over 4 million, three-quarters of them being employed in the services sector, especially education, health and welfare, and hotel and catering. Access to jobs in the male-dominated world of business has also improved markedly, partly as a result of an increasing supply of female graduates in economics and business studies. The participation rate among women in the labour market (36 percent overall), is much higher in the 20–30 age group, so it is likely to approach the higher participation rate of countries such as Britain, France or Italy. Spanish women have a much higher life expectancy than Spanish men (81 compared to 74), spend less time in hospital than men, more time on domestic chores whether or not they have jobs, are more likely than their male counterparts to pass their exams first time, and less likely to fall by the wayside in university studies.
   Further reading
   - Jones, A.B. (1997) Women in Contemporary Spain, Manchester: Manchester University Press (the best, most up-to-date account in English).
   - Garrido, L. (1993) Las dos biografías de la mujer en España, Madrid: Instituto de la Mujer (an interesting account of women's progress and problems).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin, pp. 164–75 (highly readable, and wellinformed on post-1975 developments).
   - Instituto de la Mujer (1994) La mujer en cifras. Una década, 1982-92, Madrid: Instituto de la Mujer (contains a compendium of essential statistics attractively and accessibly presented).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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