Euromonitor International 08 December 2010
Having enjoyed a boom during the early part of the decade on the back of low interest rates (thanks to its adoption of the euro) and cheap migrant labour, Spain is now facing an uncertain economic future. However the country's strong social structures, generous welfare benefits and a lively blackeconomy are sheltering many from the storm, at least for the moment. Other issues like to come to the fore during the coming decade include an alarming increase in childhood obesity, pervasive copyright infringement, multiculturalism, overcrowding in some tourist hotspots and the strain that childcare is putting on the country's grandparents.
SPANISH CONSUMERS TODAY Staring into themacroeconomic abyss, but life remains good for many
To many outsiders, the Spanish economy is a wreck. With the country's unemployment rate standing at 19.8% during the third quarter of 2010 (almost twice the Eurozone average), Spain's once booming property market at a near standstill and the government is struggling to reduce its burgeoning deficit, the picture is indeed grim. Many refer wistfully (orscornfully) to the country's erstwhile economic fiesta “cuando pensabamos que eramos ricos” (when we thought we were rich). According to Euromonitor International data, the proportion of Spanish households with an annual disposable income of at least US$45,000 (in purchasing power parity terms) fell from 52.9% to 48.6% between 2008 and 2009. Even the country's Royal Family is feeling the pinch, withPalace officials announcing that they were not expecting their allowance (which is funded by the government) to be increased for 2011. However, in many ways, the situation on the ground is not quite as bad as the data suggests. Firstly, the country has a huge black economy, with a study conducted by the University of Linz estimating that illicit activity will account for 19.5% of Spanish GDP in2010. Secondly, unemployment benefits in Spain are generous, creating a class of what have been dubbed “the comfortably unemployed.” Indeed, some perceive unemployment (at least for a while) as an opportunity to relax and recharge their batteries. Thirdly, like other southern European societies (principally Italy and Greece), the family remains an extremely strong social structure in Spain, with manyof those out of work able to live a cosseted life in the family home at little expense to themselves. Much of this may not be economically efficient, but it does make life “comodo” (comfortable) for many. According to one foreign observer, “Spain doesn't feel like a country with a 20% rate of unemployment.”
Pirate heaven, Hollywood hell
The illegal downloading of music, movies, TV shows andgames is rampant in Spain. An estimated three billion illegal downloads took place in Spain during 2009, compared with a mere 21 million legal downloads, according to a study conducted by market research company Cimec. This has been aided by an ambivalent legal system: In 2006, the attorney general advised that peer-to-peer downloading should be considered criminal only if done for profit. Accordingto Javier de la Rosa, a journalism professor at Francisco de Vitoria University in Madrid, “The triumph of downloading in Spain is partly because people can watch the latest episode of their favorite American series with Spanish subtitles weeks before it gets dubbed and released on television here. The quality and speed is also excellent nowadays, and some websites like Series Yonkis even helppeople by ranking downloads according to quality, so that's very user friendly.” However, the Spanish government is coming under increasing international pressure, mainly from the USA, to introduce harsher penalties for illegal downloaders. For the past three years, the Office of the US Trade Representative has put Spain on its watch list of countries that breach intellectual property rights due...