Spain: Austerity driving poverty, growing inequality and human rights deterioration


As Spain faces a major UN review of its human rights record, a new factsheet by CESR illustrates how four years of austerity have driven rising poverty, deepening inequality and a serious deterioration in a variety of economic and social rights in the country.

Published on the occasion of Spain’s appearance before the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism in January 2015, CESR’s rigorous analysis of statistical data from the past four years demonstrates that, despite repeated calls from the United Nations and European human rights bodies, Spain has continued with the implementation of harsh budget cuts and other austerity-driven reforms that are depriving people already vulnerable to the effects of the economic crisis of their basic human rights.

CESR’s factsheet makes evident that over four years of historic budget cuts have severely undermined social services. The findings highlight that Spanish austerity measures have been particularly detrimental to the right to health of disadvantaged groups. 

The factsheet stresses that the pattern of unjust spending cuts has continued despite the availability of more equitable fiscal alternatives – such as progressive taxation and meaningful efforts to tackle tax evasion and avoidance – that would both balance the country’s budget and comply with its human rights duties under international law to deploy the maximum available resources to fulfill economic and social rights.

Rising unemployment and undersupplied social housing have had a particularly severe impact on the right to housing: The housing cost overburden rate (percentage of population living in households where total housing costs represent more than 40% of disposable income) has risen since 2007. For persons living in poverty this figure grew from 64% in 2007 to 73% in 2013. Legislative efforts to assist those homeowners who can no longer afford their housing costs to avoid foreclosure have been weak and incoherent and the supply of social rental housing (only 2% of housing stock in Spain) is starkly insufficient (CECODHAS, 2012).  Such a situation is not sustainable and poses a significant threat to the right to adequate housing for the most disadvantaged groups.

Lack of adequate housing for the most disadvantaged groups: The Committee recommends that the State party amend its legislation to give borrowers the possibility of surrendering their homes in settlement of their mortgage rather than leaving this option solely to the banks’ discretion. The Committee also recommends that the State party encourage individuals and families to consider renting properties as an alternative means of accessing housing. In that regard, the Committee also recommends that the State party work in coordination with the autonomous communities to invest more resources in increasing the social housing stock in order to meet demand [...] (CESCR, 2012 para. 21)


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