One out of every three babies in Spain is born to unwed parents, twice as many as 10 years ago. The decline in marriages, the rise in single mothers, immigration and a more secular society have all contributed to this trend, which brings Spain more in line with the European Union average.Not quite up there with the Welsh or Scots (or Geordies), but well on the way.
Since 1981, when the law eliminated differences between children born in and out of wedlock, the proportion of the latter has risen steadily. If it was 4.4 percent that year, by 2000 it was 17.7 percent, and in 2009 — the last year for which the statistics office holds data — that rate had grown to 34.5 percent, or 170,604 babies.That's nothing. We abort more babies than that each year in England and Wales alone ! But I suppose the low numbers reflect the ongoing demographic disaster.
"These are astounding figures," said Constanza Tobío, a professor of sociology at Madrid's Carlos III University. "Couples have become more modern, and Spanish mothers have quickly become almost like Swedish or British mothers on that front. This change is the result of the secularization of society, of tolerance, of mothers' autonomy — they no longer need the safety of marriage to procreate — and of legal equality for children regardless of their parents' civil status."
Does "autonomy" = Daddy State, as in the UK ?
I mustn't get too apocalyptic. On the evidence of a week trying to cram in everything from the dockside quarter of Bilbao and the industrial valleys of Asturias (puzzling Susan with my requests, as I drove, for her to take photos of 'that big chemical works' or 'the graffiti on that bridge') to the touristy beaches and the mountains, Northern Spain is not only a great deal more civilised than the UK - so many people, drinking so much, so late into the evening, and so little trouble - but they still actually seem to make things there. As you drive up the AS117 through Langreo to San Martin, you could be in the Swansea Valley or Vale of Neath - in the days when the factories were still open.
And that's not to mention the greatest natural resource of Spain - rock, the quarrying and crushing of which, despite its grand scale, makes nary a dent in the stony peninsula. I presume a lot of it ends up on their excellent and spectacularly engineered roads - the steep left hand curve and drop as you approach Laredo from Bilbao is enough to give you vertigo, as you realise that beyond the barriers* the city (and beach) are several hundred feet below.
* which flash on and off, warning you NOT to go straight on and pointing you left, adding to the computer-game feel of the drive. Could have done without them.