Spain's economy is ranked as the fifth largest in Europe,
by Germany, France, the UK and Italy. The country's most
important export products are motor vehicles, metals and
metal products, footwear and textiles, as well as food and
beverages. Imports are dominated by crude oil, machinery and
metal products, chemical products and foodstuffs. Like other
countries in Europe, the service industry and industry are
the largest sectors of the economy.
The economy grew sharply in the late 1990s and much of
the 2000s, but in 2008 the country was hit by the global
financial crisis and entered the longest period of recession
in the era of democracy. The downturn lasted until 2013,
when the economy again grew. During this period,
unemployment rose to over 27 per cent, while it declined to
15 per cent in 2018.
countryaah, the Spanish economy has fluctuated sharply in recent
decades. In the late 1990s, the country's economy was
improving; the rise in prices and inflation went down, as
did the bank interest rate. The economic growth of the early
2000s helped the country to enter the European Monetary
Union early. In the decade from 1995 to 2005, unemployment
fell from 25 to 8 percent, the lowest level since the 1970s,
and by 2008 the Spanish economy was steadily and noticeably
improving, with growth above the EU average.
Traditionally, Spain has been an agricultural country
with the production of grains, vegetables, citrus fruits,
olive oil and wine, but much has changed over the last fifty
years. Although agriculture is still important, an
increasing proportion of the working population is working
in industrial and service occupations, and employment in
agriculture has fallen sharply. Around 75 per cent of the
working population are employed in service industries
(2017). The tourism industry is of great importance to the
economy. Tourism in Spain accounts for 14.9 per cent of the
country's GDP and 13.7 per cent of employment (2017).
However, the largest export revenues come from the industry,
especially the machinery and transport industry.
Spain joined the EU in January 1986. After Spain also
joined the EMU sets EU stringent fiscal policy and the
country must comply with the convergence requirements for
including deficit in the state budget and the limitations of
public debt. In turn, membership led to a liberalization of
the economy and a massive influx of foreign investment.
Europe is Spain's most important trading partner, and almost
two-thirds of Spain's goods exports go to other EU
countries. Spain has also benefited from support from the
EU's Structural Funds, which has had a major impact on
regional development. In 2012, the EU provided a loan of up
to EUR 100 billion as a rescue package to the crisis-hit
banking and finance sector in Spain.
About 25 percent of the country's area is arable land,
and almost 10 percent are permanently cultivated, while
about 20 percent are natural meadows and pastures. However,
part of the agricultural area is not productive, partly due
to poor soil and low rainfall, but also due to the use
structure and social conditions. Intensive agriculture is
primarily run where there are opportunities for irrigation.
The first large sluice and irrigation plant, the Canal
Imperial de Aragón on the Ebro River, was built in the late
18th century. In the southeastern corner (Almeria, Murcia
and Alicante), traditional agriculture has largely been
replaced by greenhouses.
Grain cultivation is important and occupies well over a
third of the agricultural area. Large areas are also used
for growing grapes, and Spain has long been one of the
world's largest wineries. In 2017, Spain produced 32.1
million hectoliters of wine, of which around 22.8 million
hectoliters went to export. Significant quantities of
barley, sugar beet, wheat and corn, potato plants, tomatoes,
onions, peppers, citrus fruits and olives are also grown.
In the north and northwest there are many small farms, in
Spanish minifundios. These are generally poorly
mechanized and therefore provide low labor productivity. In
the Meseta and southern Spain, the uses are greater,
especially in Extremadura, La Mancha and Andalucía, where
the major goods dominate. In Spanish they are called
latifundios. These are often 5,000 acres or more, but
have often been characterized by low land use and extensive
operations. Considerable areas have been used for beef
farming or hunting terrain.
The use structure has long prevented the efficient use of
the land. An agricultural reform, passed in Andalucia and
Extremadura in 1985, gives the regional authorities access
to the expropriation of underutilized land for transfer to
user cooperatives of farmers. Although the policy of
expropriation was long abandoned, it was resumed in 2011.
Barley and wheat are widely grown on the meseta and in
the southwestern parts of Andalusia. In addition, barley is
cultivated in the driest areas in the southeast. Maize is
mainly grown in humid Galicia in the northwest. A
significant part of the country's potatoes are also grown
here. Rice is grown using irrigation in the provinces of
Valencia, Seville, Murcia and Tarragona (at the Ebro Delta).
Typical Mediterranean growths such as citrus fruits,
olives and grapes are important export products. Around 50
per cent of wine production takes place in Castilla - la
Mancha. Other important wine districts are La Rioja in the
Ebro Basin, and not least the districts at the mouth of
Guadalquivir, where the town of Jerez de la Frontera is a
major center of world sherry production. Citrus fruit is
grown along the Mediterranean coast, mainly from Castellón
('the Valencian country') and Valencia and south to Malaga.
Spain is the world's largest producer of olive oil. Most
of the production takes place in Jaen and Cordoba
(Andalucia). Tomatoes, onions, peppers, and snake cucumber
are grown extensively for export in so-called huertas
in the provinces of Alicante, Valencia, Murcia and Almería.
In the Canary Islands, bananas and tomatoes are grown.
Animal husbandry is substantial and prevalent in the north
(Galicia and Asturias), where grazing opportunities are
best. The goat does well in the dry, southeastern regions,
while pig breeding is widespread in Extremadura and Galicia.
Exports of important growth as of 2017
All figures are taken from FEPEX.
Spain's best forest areas are found in the northern
mountain areas, and conifers account for most of the timber
production. During periods of low rainfall, forest fires are
a serious problem and a threat to the environment. Important
deciduous species are oak, beech and eucalyptus.
After 1940, forestry has been a high priority, both to
increase the country's timber production and as a remedy for
soil erosion. The timber production is divided into
softwood, wood pulp, cellulose and fuel. Spain is the
world's second largest cork producer, after Portugal.
Production takes place mostly in Extremadura, Andalucia and
Catalonia. Spain accounts for 30 percent of the world's cork
The country has been a fishing nation since Roman times.
Spain is the EU's largest fishing nation, ahead of Denmark,
the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. The main
fish species are cod, haddock, whiting, tuna, sardines,
octopus and shellfish. Spain's fishing fleet fishes along
the coast of Spain, the Canary Islands and the
Mediterranean, but is largely offshore, and also operates at
Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, the Barents Sea, the
Svalbard Zone, and along the coast of Africa and the Indian
Ocean. The fleet has on several occasions been involved in
conflicts concerning illegal fishing in other countries'
Important fishing ports are Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,
Vigo and La Coruña in Galicia and Malaga in Andalucía. There
is also a growing fish farming industry, which today
accounts for more than 30 percent of the fish that is traded
Spain has some rich mineral deposits. There are around
3,600 mines, both open and underground. Several of the mines
are open to visitors, such as Rio Tinto in Huelva and
Agrupa-Vicenta in Murcia. The mining sector employs around
30,000 people in direct positions. Since the 1990s, mining
policy has been adapted to EU requirements.
In addition to being important to Spain's industry today,
the country's rich mineral deposits have formed the basis of
business for several civilizations throughout history. While
the Phoenicians operated salt extraction in Spain 1000 years
BCE. , the Romans created coins of silver from Rio Tinto in
Huelva. The Romans also knew about Spain's lead deposits.
The country has large deposits of iron ore, and during the
industrial revolution, Spanish iron ore was sought after. In
the 20th century, coal and iron ore clays in the north of
the country were especially important to the country's
economy, and coal and iron ore have largely formed the basis
for today's heavy industry..
Spain's heyday for coal production was in the first half
of the 20th century. The largest coal mines are in Asturias,
Galicia, Castilla-Leon, Aragon, Catalonia, Castilla la
Mancha and Andalucia. During Francisco Franco's
dictatorship, coal production was maintained, but declined
in the latter part of the 20th century. In the period
1998-2009, the decline in coal production was significant,
falling from 31 million tonnes to 9 million tonnes.
Accidents are rare, but in 2013 six people were killed in
a mining accident in Leon. The mining accident was the
largest in 18 years. In 2016, one more miner lost his life
in an accident in Cangas del Narcea in Asturias. Spain also
has large copper deposits in Andalusia, and there is gold in
Asturias. Copper and gold mining has been increasing
recently, as has the production of tungsten and lead. Other
important minerals are zinc, manganese and mercury.
Like many other Mediterranean countries, Spain has a
significant production of salt and covers its needs as well
as exports. Salt is extracted by evaporation of seawater or
from quarrying or dissolution of rock salt. Salt production
takes place mostly in Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, Cantabria,
Valencia and Andalucia. In addition, Spain is one of the
world's largest natural stone producers and Europe's largest
granite producer. Most of Spain's granite is mined in
Galicia. Castile-Leon has a significant production of slate.
Spain is dependent on imports to meet its energy needs.
Since 1990, Spain has been investing heavily in renewable
energy from hydro and wind power as well as solar cells.
Large water reservoirs are built in the mountainous areas,
especially in the precipitous regions of the north and
northwest. The pond plants often serve irrigation purposes
as well. Spain is also one of the world's leading producers
of wind power, with over 20,000 turbines distributed over
more than 1,000 wind farms, with a production capacity of
23,057 MW. Around 33 per cent of the energy comes from
renewable energy sources (2017).
The electric power comes to a lesser extent from natural
gas, petroleum and coal. Since 1960 there has been a marked
transition from coal to petroleum. Spain has crude oil and
gas, but only to a small extent. Nigeria, Mexico and Saudi
Arabia are the country's largest supplier of crude oil, and
Algeria is the main supplier of natural gas to Spain.
Spain has ten oil refineries. Two of them are in
Tarragona and another two are in Castellón and Cartagena
along the Mediterranean coast. On the northern Atlantic
coast of Bilbao and La Coruña there are two refineries, and
two in Andalucía, in Huelva and San Roque (Algeciras). There
is a refinery in Puertollano (Ciudad Real) inland and one in
Tenerife. Spain has seven active reactors distributed over
five nuclear power plants. In 2017, around 20 per cent of
the electrical power came from Spain's nuclear power plant.
After World War II, Spain invested heavily in building
industry, and the country quickly evolved to become one of
Western Europe's major industrial nations. During General
Francisco Franco's dictatorship, the country went from a
policy of protectionism and self-sufficiency to a somewhat
greater degree of liberalization of the economy and less
state control. The industry encompasses a wide range from
the food and textile, shipbuilding and metal products
industries, through the automotive and building industries
to the advanced electronic industry.
In 2004, 30 per cent of the working population in the
industry, including power generation and construction,
worked, and the sector contributed an almost equal share of
GDP. When the financial crisis hit the industry in 2008, a
sharp decline in employment in the industry was recorded.
Industrial industries such as the shipbuilding, steel and
textile industries, in addition and regardless of the
financial crisis, have had marketing problems and major
problems in recent years, and have been forced to
restructure and cut back. In the steel industry, for
example, many thousands of jobs have been lost since the
1980s as a result of the downturn. As a result of EU
membership, an increasing proportion of industry investment
has taken place in areas near the Mediterranean coast. In
the past, the industry has mainly been concentrated in
Northern Spain (especially Asturias and the Basque Country)
and in the Madrid and Barcelona areas.
Spain is a major shipbuilding nation, with shipyards
including Ferrol in Galicia and the Cádiz Bay. Spain also
has shipyards in Barcelona, Cartagena and Bilbao. The
shipbuilding industry has also faced difficulties,
especially during the downturn of the 1970s, with the loss
of thousands of jobs. Since 2000, however, there have been
signs of improvement, with increased world trade and greater
demand for ships.
Spain is among the largest car manufacturer in the world,
and the second largest car manufacturer in Europe, after
Germany (2018). Spain's car industry accounted for over 2
million jobs in 2017 and 10 percent of the country's GDP. In
2017, more than 2.8 million vehicles were produced, of which
around 1.4 million were passenger cars. Seat (Volkswagen) is
the country's largest car manufacturer. Other important car
manufacturers are Opel, Ford, Peugeot, Citroën and
Mercedez-Benz. The metalware industry is found in many
cities, including Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga, Cartagena and
Gijón. The production range includes household and kitchen
equipment and various machines.
The textile and footwear industry is located in the
Barcelona area and in the provinces of Valencia and
Alicante. The footwear industry consists mainly of small
The center of gravity of the chemical industry has
traditionally been in the north, with the center in the
Barcelona area. Substantial government and private
investment has made the chemical industry a growth industry
with the production of acids, paints, plastics and
Since 1990, significant investments have been made in the
electronics industry, with the production of computer
processors and data equipment, industrial robots, advanced
communication equipment etc. The production of
telecommunication equipment and computer equipment,
especially in GPS technology and aircraft navigation, has
seen tremendous growth over the last decade.
Tourism in Spain
Spain is one of the world's foremost tourist countries,
with 82 million visitors from abroad in 2017. Around 1
million Norwegians visit Spain every year. It is charter
tourism that is leading, but there is also a varied range of
cultural tourism and winter sports.
Transport and Communications
Spain's road network is of high quality. The country has
Europe's longest motorway network, with a total distance of
around 17,000 km, ahead of Germany's around 13,000 (2018).
The main road network in Spain radiates star-shaped from
Madrid, a pattern that was designed all the way to the late
18th century. A number of main roads have been converted
into autopistas (highways) with tolls. A large
proportion of the highways are publicly financed.
The development of a Spanish railway network began in
1848 with a line Barcelona-Mataró. In the second half of the
19th century, the network expanded greatly, with Madrid as a
center. The Spanish railway is state-run, but it is open to
private players from 2008. The total railway length is 15
900 kilometers (2014), of which about half are electrified.
After the Spanish Civil War, the material was heavily
worn, and from 1941 the railways were run by the state
(RENFE, the Spanish state railways). A major modernization
program was launched from the mid-1960s. The comfortable
Talgo trains are lightweight, fast express trains of Spanish
construction. In 1992, a high-speed line was built between
Madrid and Seville, AVE, a further development of the French
TVG. At the beginning of the 2000s, a number of new routes
got high-speed trains. This includes AVE to Malaga, Cádiz,
Galicia, Valladolid, Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante. The
high-speed trains Alvia and Avant are slightly below the
standard by default.
The Spanish railway network has a wider gauge than the
European standard, constructed differently (from France's
normal gauge) for defense purposes, and passengers must
therefore normally change trains at the French border. Some
of the new express trains have a mechanical solution that
makes train change redundant. There are metro networks (metro)
in the major cities. In 2003, Spain and Morocco agreed on
the development of the railway tunnel during the Gibraltar
Strait, but as of 2018, the project is still at the planning
The country's national airline, Iberia, was founded in
1927 and has a worldwide network of routes. The company was
privatized in 2001, and in 2011 Iberia became a subsidiary
of the International Airlines Group, together with British
Airways. Other major airlines are Air Europa and Spanair.
Low-cost airline Vueling (2004) has had routes to Norway
Spain has 47 public airports with regular scheduled
services, of which the most important airports are Madrid,
Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Malaga and Las Palmas/Gran
Canaria. Air traffic over Spain is controlled by Aena.
Spain has one of Europe's largest trading fleets. With
its convenient location in relation to the main routes of
world shipping and the country's long coastline, Spain has
long been a significant maritime nation. The main ports in
terms of volume are Algeciras - La Línea, Barcelona,
Valencia, Tarragona, Bilbao, Vigo, Huelva and Santa Cruz
Spain's main trading partners are France, Germany, Italy,
the United Kingdom and the United States. The country has a
considerable deficit in foreign trade, which was previously
fully covered by tourist and service revenues as well as
transfers from Spanish foreign workers abroad. In recent
years, Spain has also had a deficit in the balance of
payments, but a positive development in the Spanish export
sector has been noted. The biggest increase is in the
Foreign trade as a percentage by country 2017
Main categories - exports
|Cars and transport equipment
|Shoes and toys
Main categories - imports
|Cars, machines and transport equipment
|Machines and electrical material