Mass unemployment in Spain (1959-2014): productive and commercial problems of a peripheral economy in global capitalism

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The thesis studies one of the main problems in Spain: mass unemployment. It is not a short-term problem, but a structural feature of the Spanish socio-economic system since at least the end of the 1970s, which remains unresolved. We argue that the fundamental cause of this mass unemployment lies in the deficient Spanish productive system and its peripheral integration into European and global capitalism. This is most apparent in the collapse of the Francoist economic regime and the crisis of the democratic Transition, when the unemployment rate shot up to 21%. This legacy endures, chiefly, because the mentioned causes persist, which in addition impose the “external constraint” on economic growth and employment. The process is as follows: 1) when the economy grows and generates employment, imports increase faster than imports and far exceed them; 2) typically, the deficit has to be financed by some sort of foreign indebtedness, until 3) the capacity to pay these liabilities is called into question and difficulties in accessing external finance arise. All of this forces or compounds a more or less traumatic contraction of domestic demand to bring external deficits down to the level for which they can obtain foreign finance. So it happened in the developments leading to the Stabilisation Plan (1959) and through the crisis of the democratic Transition (1977-1985), the accelerated integration into the European Union (1986-1993) and the millennial boom leading to the current crisis. Besides, international trade relations also impact domestic employment when foreign finance does not falter. Between 1995 and 2007, the number of hours worked in Spain increased by 44%. Out of this rise, we prove that the vast majority (41.3 percentage points) corresponds to “Domestic Effects” and 2.7 to “Foreign Effects”. Therefore, Spanish employment benefited from international trade despite the huge trade deficits. Nonetheless, we also show that these trade relations, the Spanish productive model and the economic growth rates above those of the main trade partners implied an increasing accumulation of foreign debt. The effects of these changes in international competitiveness were negligible and, contrary to conventional opinion, more beneficial to Spain than to Germany, France and Italy. Catalysed by Global Financial Crisis, by 2008 it became apparent both the private and foreign over-indebtedness, which were two sides of the same coin. This prevented the reproduction of the growth model. As a consequence, and given the “austeritarian” stance of the Eurozone’s, Spain operates again, de facto, under the external constraint, which hinders the viability of policies for a return to growth as a sustainable remedy for mass unemployment. The thesis also provides theoretical and methodological contributions to the field of macroeconomics and suggests broad policy recommendations. ​
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