Monday, August 01, 2011

The Spanish Are Bastards, Too

El Pais :

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 TobĂ­o, 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.


Annoying Oik said...

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.

I am genuinely surprised that you have not mentioned probably one of the main reasons that they still make stuff in Northern Spain, and not so much in South Wales. That being the importance of ownership.

One of the things that distinguishes Germany from the UK is the large number of family owned business. In other words, it is difficult for financial vultures in The City of London or Frankfurt to buy up and asset strip them or sell them to foreigners who just want to destroy the local competition.

In Northern Spain, the ownership issues are often resolved in a far more interesting way.

That being the Mondragon Co-operative Federation:

Laban said...

Funny, that. I discovered the Mondragon Corporation when I was trying to find spare parts for a Brandt dishwasher.

"At Mondragon, there are agreed-upon wage ratios between the worker-owners who do executive work and those who work in the field or factory and earn a minimum wage. These ratios range from 3:1 to 9:1 in different cooperatives and average 5:1. That is, the general manager of an average Mondragon cooperative earns 5 times as much as the theoretical minimum wage paid in his/her cooperative. This ratio is in reality smaller because there are few Mondragon worker-owners that earn minimum wages, their jobs being somewhat specialized and classified at higher wage levels."

It certainly helps that Mondragon is not only a co-op, but rooted in the Basque identity despite its globalised outlook. We were in one of their Eroski hypermarkets on Saturday.

But I noticed a Nestle plant near Santander, and a big Bayer works in Langreo. Maybe the response to 'buy up, then close down' is a tad more robust there than in the UK.

Anonymous said...

The Mondragon coop is a very interesting example, but wouldn't do to get too enthusiastic about the Spanish model -- built for years on a credit and housing boom and cheap immigrant labour. Youth unemployment is 45 percent and the birthrate not much higher than one per woman. Of course, that's the country as a whole, but the north is not exempt.

Anonymous said...

I have been to Bilbao on business on many occassions - but not much business is actually done there. This is despite the spanish government trying to buy off the supporters of ETA with, um, fancy roadbuilding schemes and the like. By the way, go there in the winter when the Atlantic is lashing at those high cliffs and you will have a rather different picture of life there - don't be tempted to buy a holiday property!

I suppose that Spansih men have realised as many British men have that marriage is a one-way ticket to the poor-house for a bloke - too much compensation for married women that find themselves bored with their spouses has resulted in men avoiding the commitment in the first place., and thus keeping their hands on 100% of their income and their house no matter what happens to their relationship.