Focus on Spanish Society. September 2022

Focus on Spanish Society. September 2022

Fecha: septiembre 2022

Opinión pública, Salud, Formación online, Crisis económica, Problemas económicos

Section I. Spain in Europe

I.1. Self-perceived health in the midst of the pandemic: Income less relevant of a factor in Spain than in other European countries

The pandemic has not significantly affected Spanish people’s perception about their own health, though it has brought about a slight decrease in the percentage of people who consider their health «very good» or «good». In 2020, 73% of the population aged 16 and over rated their health in these terms, about two percentage points (pp) less than in 2019 (75.3%). In 2021, the percentage fell an additional two pp (to 71.2%), the lowest figure in the last decade (2012-2021) (Figure I.1).

Consequently, according to the latest available data, seven out of ten adult individuals living in Spain are satisfied with their health. This share is higher than that found in Germany (63.2%) and virtually coincides with that recorded by Nordic countries: Denmark (67%), Finland (70.1%) and Sweden (72.4%) (Figure I.2).

In all countries for which data have been published, the percentage of females who perceive their health as very good or good is lower than that of males (Figure I.3). In Spain, this difference amounts to 5.5 pp (68.5% of females and 74% of males), a slightly wider gap than that found in Germany and the Nordic countries.

Differences are more remarkable when the population is divided by income quintiles. In Spain, about two thirds of people (65.2%) included in the lowest 20% of income (first quintile) perceive their health as very good or good. This share is bigger than the corresponding shares in Germany (51.4%), Finland (56.9%), Denmark (57.9%) and Sweden (62.8%) (Figure I.4).

By contrast, when the focus is placed on the more affluent population (fifth quintile), the percentage of people in Spain who consider their health as very good or good is similar to that obtained in Germany (78.1%), Denmark (81.5%), Sweden (81.9%) or Finland (82.1%) (Figure I.4). Hence, differences between the self-perceived health of the richest and poorest population groups in Spain are less significant than in most European countries. The reasons underlying this empirical evidence merit investigation, but the universal and high-quality healthcare provided in Spain is most likely an important explanatory factor.

Taking a closer look at the variance within income quintiles, it is worth noting that the gender gap is bigger in the group which encompasses more economically disadvantaged people. Thus, 70.1% of males in the first quintile rate their health as very good or good, while this opinion is manifested by 60.9 % of females in the same quintile (Figure I.5). In the highest income group (fifth quintile), differences are much smaller (81.2% of males and 79.1% of females are satisfied with their health).

I.2. Booming participation in online courses

Since the pandemic, online courses have become a widely accepted way of learning specific content. In 2020, Spain recorded one of the highest percentages in the European Union of individuals having done an online course in the last three months. Around a quarter of people (16-74 years old), up from 15%,declared having done such a course in 2019. However, this share only increased by 2 pp in 2021, while other countries experienced sharper increases in that year (Figure I.6).

In general, students form the group with higher participation rates in online courses. In 2020, 57% of Spanish students declared having done an online course, 37 pp more than in 2019. This strong increase reflects to a great extent the effort by teachers and educational administrations to switch to online learning. In fact, the percentages of students who in 2020 did online courses in Germany (22%), Belgium (24%), the Netherlands (26%) and Italy (35%) were considerably lower. Yet, in 2021, the Spanish percentage dropped to 50%, falling behind that of the Netherlands (89%) and Belgium (72%), though still ahead of Germany (34%) and Italy (45%) (Figure I.7).

Individuals aged 16-24 show the highest share of participation in online courses. In fact, young people in most European countries are extensively used to online courses, the share of participation in these courses decreasing with age (Figure I.8).

Focusing on the age group which shows higher participation rates in online courses (16-24 years) allows to spot important gender differences. Thus, while in 2019, the share of males and females aged 16 to 24 who declared having done an online course in the last three months was the same (17%), in 2021, both percentages increased but diverged: 40% of males stated having done an online course, but the corresponding percentage among females amounted to 54% (Figure I.9). This gender gap is, in Spain, broader than in other countries.

It seems that Spanish teachers and lecturers reacted very quickly when the pandemic lockdowns prohibited in-person education, an effort that perhaps has been neither sufficiently recognized nor capitalized in educational terms.

Section II. Public opinion trends

The economic crisis: The main problem at the national and personal level

For many years, Spanish public opinion has pinpointed unemployment as the country’s main problem. In fact, in opinion barometers conducted since the mid-80s by the Center for Sociological Research (CIS), the share of interviewees mentioning unemployment as one of the three main problems in the country has virtually always surpassed 50%, with this percentage rising above 80% during periods of economic recession. By contrast, the more general answer “economic problems” was less mentioned by citizens asked to identify Spain’s main problems (Figure II.1). But though unemployment was the top answer, it appeared in a much less prominent place when interviewees were invited to indicate the three problems affecting them most personally. Personal problems were reasonably more dispersed and not so easy to rank.

A noteworthy change has lately occurred in this regard. On the one hand, at the top of the ranking of Spain’s problems the answer “unemployment” has been replaced by “the economic crisis” (Figure II.1). Since the outbreak of the pandemic, both percentages have evolved in parallel (as they did at the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-2008), but since March 2022, (coinciding with the start of the war in Ukraine) the answer “economic crisis” has outstripped the answer “unemployment”. In July, 53% of interviewees spontaneously cited “the economic crisis” when asked about the three main problems in Spain (more than 20 pp above the percentages of interviewees citing unemployment and health as one of the three main problems in Spain: Figure II.2). On the other hand, since April 2022, the percentage of interviewees mentioning the economic crisis as Spain’s problem virtually coincides with the percentage of interviewees giving the same answer when asked about the problems that most affect them personally (Figure II.3). In fact, no answer in the time series to this latter question has ever achieved such a high percentage. The economic crisis has concentrated opinions about the main problems Spain and Spaniards currently face.

Section III. Follow-up social data


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