copy the linklink copied!1. Towards a circular economy in Valladolid, Spain

This chapter provides an overview on the circular economy in cities and focuses on the rationale for the circular economy transition in the city of Valladolid, Spain, by looking at main drivers leading to a shift from a linear to a circular economy, and socioeconomic and environmental data and trends.


copy the linklink copied!Introduction: The circular economy in cities and regions

The transition to a circular economy is underway and cities and regions are at the centre of it. By 2050, the global population will reach 9 billion people, 70% of which will be living in cities (UN, 2018[1]). The pressure on natural resources will increase, while new infrastructure, services and housing will be needed. Already, cities represent almost two-thirds of global energy demand (IEA, 2016[2]) and produce up to 80% of greenhouse gas emissions (World Bank, 2010[3]). By 2050, urban dwellers will still be the most exposed to high concentrations of air pollutants1 (OCDE, 2012[4]). Cities produce 50% of global waste (UNEP, 2013[5]). It is estimated that globally, by 2050, the levels of municipal solid waste will double (IEA, 2016[2]; UNEP/IWSA, 2015[6]). A total of 80% of food is consumed in cities and compared to today’s levels, 60% more food will be required in the coming decades to feed the population (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2019[7]). At the same time, water stress and water consumption will increase by 55% by 2050 (OCDE, 2012[4]). Cities and regions have core responsibilities for local public services such as transport, solid waste, water and energy. As such, they are at the centre of key decisions having a strong impact on citizens’ well-being, environmental quality and economic growth.

There is no unique definition for circular economy, which is now facing a validity challenge period. Although there are many definitions of the circular economy, they all include as a basic assumption the recognition of waste as a resource (Box 1.1). The circular economy is about preventing wasted resources through reusing materials, improving design to increase the durability of goods and products, and transforming waste. In cities and regions, the circular economy should ensure that: services (e.g. from water to waste and energy) are provided whilst preventing waste generation, making efficient use of natural resources as primary materials, optimising their reuse and allowing synergies across sectors; economic activities are planned and carried out in a way to close, slow and narrow loops across value chains and infrastructure is designed and built to avoid linear locks-in, which use resources intensively and inefficiently.

The circular economy is not an end per se, but a means to an end: it provides an opportunity to do more with less, to better use available natural resources and to transform waste into new resources, while promoting new jobs opportunities and tackling inequalities (e.g. access to sharing services and commodities, form mobility to agro-food, to buildings). As such, while the environmental narrative, whereby less use of materials implies reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been so far predominant in promoting the shift to a circular economy, cities and regions are increasingly paying attention to the social and the economic aspects, as drivers for this transition. According to Blomsma and Brennan (2017[8]), the circular economy is now facing its “validity challenge period” on its way to becoming a robust and consolidated concept, implying a radical shift in consumer behaviour.

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Box 1.1. Examples of circular economy definitions
  • “The circular economy is where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste minimised.” (EC, 2015[9])

  • “The circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out while minimising negative impacts. A circular economy is then an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose).” (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2018[10])

  • “An economic system that replaces the end-of-life concept, with reducing, alternatively using, recycling and recovering materials in production/distribution and consumption processes. It operates at the micro level (products companies, consumers), meso level (eco-industrial parks) and macro level (city, region, nation and beyond), with the aim of accomplishing sustainable development, thus simultaneously creating environmental quality, economic prosperity and social equity, to the benefit of current and future generations. It is enabled by novel business models and responsible consumers.” (Kirchherr, Reike and Hekkert, 2017[11])

  • “The circular economy is one that has low environmental impacts and that makes good use of natural resources, through high resource efficiency and waste prevention, especially in the manufacturing sector, and minimal end-of-life disposal of materials.” Ekins et al. (2019[12])

  • “There are three different layers of circularity, with increasingly broad coverage: i) closing resource loops; ii) slowing resource loops; and iii) narrowing resource loops. All these explicitly or implicitly aim at addressing the market failures associated with materials use, the failure to address local environmental consequences associated with extraction; or the failure to include the environmental externalities associated with waste generation. Furthermore, there are economic inefficiencies associated with the inefficient use of scarce resources.” (OECD, 2019[13]).

Source: EC (2015[9]), Closing the Loop – An EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy, (accessed on 21 February 2020); Ellen McArthur Foundation (2018[10]), What is a Circular Economy?, (accessed on 21 February 2020); Kirchherr, J., D. Reike and M. Hekkert (2017[11]), “Conceptualizing the circular economy: An analysis of 114 definitions”,; Ekins et al. (2019[12]), “The Circular Economy: What, Why, How and Where”, Background paper for an OECD/EC Workshop on 5 July 2019 within the workshop series “Managing environmental and energy transitions for regions and cities”, Paris; OECD (2019[13]), Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060: Economic Drivers and Environmental Consequences,

The circular economy in cities and regions is expected to generate a positive impact on economic growth, the creation of new jobs and the reduction of negative impacts on the environment. By 2030, shifting from a linear approach of “take, make and dispose” to a circular system is estimated to hold a potential of USD 4.5 trillion for economic growth (Accenture, 2015[14]). Projections show that, by 2030, resource productivity in Europe can improve by 3% and generate a gross domestic product (GDP) increase of up to 7% (McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment, 2016[15]). Projections at the city level show that for example, applying a circular economy approach to the construction chain in the city of Amsterdam (Netherlands) would decrease GHG emissions by half a million tonnes of CO2 per year. In London (United Kingdom), the benefits from circular approaches applied to the built environment, food, textiles, electricals and plastics are estimated at GBP 7 billion every year by 2036.2 About 50 000 jobs related to the circular economy are estimated to be created in the Île-de-France region.3 Environmental benefits consist of: decreased pollution; increased share of renewable or recyclable resources; and reduced consumption of raw materials, water, land and energy (EEA, 20016[16]). Yet, the transition should be “just” by taking into account people’ social well-being, quality of life and equity.

The potential of the circular economy still needs to be unlocked. Today, less than 10% of the global economy is circular (Circle Economy, 2020[17]). Unlocking the potential of the circular economy in cities and regions implies going beyond solely technical aspects and putting the necessary governance in place to create incentives (legal, financial), stimulate innovation (social, institutional) and generate information (data, knowledge, capacities). It would also mean looking at the barriers for businesses to “close the loops”, by re-thinking business models (e.g. leasing and sharing) and analysing the economic instruments that could support the transition in several sectors, including waste, food, built-up environments and water. The circular economy implies governance models based on multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approaches. For the circular economy to happen, policies need to be aligned, stakeholders informed and engaged, legal and regulatory frameworks updated and in support of innovation.

copy the linklink copied!The drivers for the circular transition in Valladolid, Spain

For the city of Valladolid, Spain, the transition to a circular economy represents an opportunity for greater attractiveness and competitiveness, while providing responses to environmental challenges. Figure 1.1 indicates the words that the city through the OECD Survey on the Circular Economy in Cities and Regions most associates with the circular economy concept (the bigger the word in the figure, the higher the importance). These words are: “sustainable development”, “climate change”, “efficiency”, “business model” and “cultural change”. According to the local administration, waste prevention, eco-design and recycling are key for the circular economy (OECD, 2019[18]). In particular, the city aims to maximise the use of natural resources, such as agro-food resources, promote the industrial symbiosis and improve separate waste collection for recycling and materials’ valorisation. This implies fostering public awareness and participation, enhancing innovation and promoting co-operation amongst stakeholders (Puente, 2018[19]).

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Figure 1.1. Tag cloud on the circular economy in Valladolid, Spain
Figure 1.1. Tag cloud on the circular economy in Valladolid, Spain

Note: The respondent had to choose the top 5 words most often associated with the circular economy. The answer is based on the following question: “Please indicate the top 5 words from the list suggested below you most often associate with circular economy in your context, ranking from 1 (most important) to 5 (less important)”.

Source: Own elaboration based on the city of Valladolid’s answers to the OECD (2019[18]) OECD Survey on the Circular Economy in Cities and Regions.

Since adhering to the Declaration of Seville in March 2017, the city of Valladolid has showed political willingness towards a circular transition. Valladolid was one of the first cities to adhere to the Declaration of Seville in March 2017, which followed the Call to Cities for the Circular Economy launched in Paris in September 2015 on the occasion of COP 21. Through the Declaration of Seville, 300 Spanish municipalities committed to promoting a sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban development model and strengthening the role of local governments in the circular transition by developing local strategies on: zero landfills; recycling (especially bio-waste); waste prevention (particularly food waste); eco-design; and public procurement of green products. Although not binding, the declaration represents a starting point for Spanish municipalities to take action towards a circular economy. Following the signature, the Agency of Innovation and Economic Development of the municipality of Valladolid started drafting a Circular Economy Roadmap and the Department of Innovation, Economic Development, Employment and Trade made available municipal grants for circular projects (see next paragraphs).

The Spanish Circular Economy Strategy and a series of initiatives at the subnational level fostered the development of circular economy models in Valladolid. Although not yet approved, the Spanish Circular Economy Strategy (Government of Spain, 2018[20]) is a reference for subnational governments willing to transition from a linear to a circular economy, including for Valladolid. The strategy serves as a general framework that can be adopted and implemented by regional and local governments according to their specific competencies and priorities (see Chapter 2). Beyond the national reference, other initiatives stimulated a fertile environment for planning the transition to a circular economy in the city of Valladolid. For example, the municipality actively participated in the development of the “Circular economy local strategy model” by the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (Federación Española de Municipios y Provincias, FEMP). Moreover, the municipality shares information with Castile and León Autonomous Community for the elaboration of its Circular Economy Strategy 2020-30.

The participation of the city of Valladolid in several projects funded by the European Commission (EC) led the municipality to conceive the circular economy as an umbrella framework for sustainable development projects. The municipality of Valladolid is actively engaged in a series of EC funded projects promoting sustainable urban development, through energy efficiency, district heating, sustainable mobility, and nature-based solutions.4 These projects stimulated new forms of public-private collaborations and enhanced environmental awareness. As such, lessons learnt from the practice of the EC funded projects (e.g. communication, budget management, partnerships, etc.) are intended to be used to implement the future circular economy strategy of the city, since multi-stakeholder collaborations (across public, private and not-for-profit sectors, academia, local associations and citizens) will be needed.

copy the linklink copied!Socioeconomic data and trends

Valladolid is the most populated city of the Castile and León Autonomous Community. Castile and León (2 425 801 inhabitants in 2018) is the sixth most populated region in the country (Castile and León Autonomous Community, 2018[21]) and the most extensive in territorial terms, although population density is low with 25.5 inhabitants per km2 (EC, 2019[22]). The region is located in the northern half of the country (Figure 1.2). A total of 12% of the region’s inhabitants and 57% of the province’s population live in the city of Valladolid (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]). In 2018, the population amounted at 298 866 inhabitants, mostly concentrated in the historical centre, but increasingly moving to less densely populated and peripheral areas of the city. Four peripheral districts (Numbers 4, 6, 10 and 11) of a total of 12 city districts concentrate 78% of the population (Valladolid en Cifras, 2019[24]).

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Figure 1.2. Map of the Castile and León Autonomous Community and Valladolid, Spain
Figure 1.2. Map of the Castile and León Autonomous Community and Valladolid, Spain

Source: Webpage of Valladolid Municipality (2020[25]), Cómo llegar - Portal de Cultura y Turismo de Valladolid,

The population of the city of Valladolid has been shrinking and ageing during the last two decades and this trend is projected to continue during the next decade. Since 1998, the municipality of Valladolid has lost almost 7% of its population. During the last 5 years, the provincial population has dropped by 2%. This is due to death rates rising above the number of new-borns and the net balance between emigrants and immigrants (almost 1 000 in 2017) (INE, 2019[26]). Some neighbouring municipalities have absorbed the excess of emigrants from the capital, becoming “dormitory towns”. Between 2005 and 2018, the working population decreased by almost 10% (Figure 1.3) and, among it, the 25-34 age group was the one which decreased the most. During the same period, the youth index5 decreased from 67% to 45.8%, while the ageing index shows that the senior population (over 64) grew almost 10% (Figure 1.4).

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Figure 1.3. Share of the working-age population in Valladolid, Spain, 2005-18
16-64 year-olds
Figure 1.3. Share of the working-age population in Valladolid, Spain, 2005-18

Source: Own elaboration based on Valladolid en Cifras (2019[24])Homepage (accessed on 11 June 2019).

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Figure 1.4. Share of the elderly population in Valladolid, Spain, 2005-18
+65 year-olds
Figure 1.4. Share of the elderly population in Valladolid, Spain, 2005-18

Source: Own elaboration based on Valladolid en Cifras (2019[24])Homepage (accessed on 11 June 2019).

Valladolid’s economy is characterised by the service sector. A total of 83% of existing firms in the city operates in the service sector, followed by the construction (11%), industrial (almost 5%) and agriculture sectors (less than 1%) (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]). The GDP of the metropolitan area of Valladolid and that of the region are equivalent respectively to almost 1% and 5% of the national GDP (OECD, 2019[27]). In 2016, the GDP per capita in the province of Valladolid was EUR 24 308, slightly above the regional value (EUR 22 646) and the national level (EUR 23 970) (INE, 2016[28]).6 Valladolid hosts big international firm subsidiaries, such as Michelin and Renault.7 However, the productive sector is mainly characterised by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as in the whole region. In Castile and León, a total of 90% of companies are SMEs and 83% of them have less than 3 salaried workers (EC, 2019[22]).

Unemployment in Valladolid has been decreasing since 2014 and is lower than the regional and national levels. Since the financial crisis in 2008, unemployment has been a great concern in Spain. At the beginning of the crisis, in 2008, unemployment represented 9.6%. By 2013, it had almost tripled to a maximum of 26.9% and started to fall until reaching 13.8% in 2019. This figure is almost 2 times higher than the EU average of 7.5% (Eurostat, 2019[29]). In the city of Valladolid, the level of unemployment8 has increased from 7.8% to 15.7% between 2008 and 2014 and has been fluctuating, reaching 11.7% in 2018 (Valladolid Municipality, 2019[30]). Unemployment in the city highly affects individuals above 25 years old (40.8% of this group age) and above 45 years old (49.3%) (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]). A total of 9.9% of youth under 25 years old are unemployed and a total of 27% of young professionals leave the city after ending their studies (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]). In order to attract “brains”, the municipality launched a talent return programme, offering two-year grants and a talent retention programme to incentivise local companies hiring recent graduates from the University of Valladolid for a six-month internship (Valladolid Municipality, 2018[31]).

The tourist sector is gaining increasing relevance, due to the rich cultural heritage of the city and the presence of international events. Valladolid was home to historical iconic figures such as Christopher Columbus, who died in Valladolid in 1506, and Miguel de Cervantes, whose first edition of “Don Quixote” was published in Valladolid in 1604. Since 1965, the city has been hosting the International Film Week of Valladolid (SEMINCI), attracting each year around 95 000 visitors. Valladolid is the most visited city in Castile and León with almost 455 926 visitors in 2018 (INE, 2019[26]), corresponding to 1.4% increase in visitors compared to the year 2017 (INE, 2018[32]). In 2017, the tourism sector generated EUR 277 million, almost 18% more than in 2016, creating 4 639 jobs (16% more than the previous year) (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]).

The city hosts one of the oldest universities in Spain. The University of Valladolid, founded in 1346, has four campuses located in the municipalities of Palencia, Segovia, Soria and Valladolid. The School of Industrial Engineering was ranked, in 2016, as the seventh-best in Spain for the link between the competencies acquired by students and the required skills for a career in the business sector (Everis Foundation, 2016[33]). The university is also known for its School of Architecture.

copy the linklink copied!Overview of environmental data and trends

Air pollution has been decreasing since 2002, although it is still an issue for the city. Since 2008, the number of days reporting “bad” and “regular” atmospheric quality has dropped sensibly, whereas days considered as “good” and “very good” have increased. Carbon emissions in Valladolid have decreased by 8% since 2010 (Interreg Europe, 2019[34]). The municipality, following the Anti-pollution Protocol (Protocolo de Anticontaminación de Valladolid), adopted limitations to traffic in the city centre on seven occasions during 2017 to reduce air pollution levels. The Atmospheric Pollution Control Network (Red de Control de Contaminación Atmosférica del Ayuntamiento de Valladolid, RCCAVA) has 5 quality air monitoring stations located throughout the city that measure the level of particles (PM10, PM2.5) and other gases (NO2, O3, SO2, CO2). The municipality attributes air pollution to the extensive use of private vehicles and is taking measures for greener mobility through European funds (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]).

Renewable energy production has been increasing although it remains at low levels compared to traditional energy sources. Biogas and thermal solar energy (local) have been the predominant renewable energy sources since the beginning of the 2000s up to 2014. The municipal thermal solar energy has kept a similar production level throughout that period. Photovoltaic and biomass, while almost inexistent at the beginning of the analysed period, have seen a big increase between 2010 and 2014 (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]).

Household waste per capita production stands below regional and national values; however, fluctuations have been registered in recent years. Nowadays, a total of each 380 kg of waste per household per year are produced in Valladolid, below the regional value of 433 kg and the 459 kg generated in Spain. The per capita household waste production has increased by almost 8% since 2014 (when it was 353 kg/inhabitant), after showing a decreasing trend between 2011 and 2014 (Figure 1.5). The downward trend might be due, amongst others, to the slowdown in consumption associated with the 2008 international crisis (Lomas and Carpintero, 2017[35]). Household waste separation levels amounted at 40% of the total waste produced between 2010 and 2018 (Valladolid Municipality, 2019[36]). Total municipal waste production has increased between 2002 and 2010 from approximately 115 000 tonnes to 128 000 tonnes. Since then and until 2014, the production of waste has dropped up to its minimum (108 000 tonnes) (CTR Valladolid, 2018[37]). Since 2014, municipal waste production has remained relatively stable although, in the last 3 years, the amount of total waste has increased by 2% (reaching 113 212 tonnes in 2018) (Valladolid Municipality, 2019[36]).

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Figure 1.5. Per capita household waste generation in Valladolid, Spain 2008-18
Figure 1.5. Per capita household waste generation in Valladolid, Spain 2008-18

Source: CTR Valladolid (2018[38]), Datos del CTR, (accessed on 3 August 2019).

Household water consumption shows a downward trend since 2004. Litres of water consumed per capita per day (l/pc/d) in Valladolid have been slightly falling, from about 300 l/pc/d in 2004 to 260 l/pc/d in 2018. This figure shows a 5% reduction compared to 2017 and the city’s projections for 2019 were expecting to keep the same trend reaching 255 l/pc/d (although data for 2019 are not yet available). The municipality attributes this reduction to increased awareness and citizen engagement campaigns (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]). On the other hand, water consumed for irrigation of parks and gardens has increased by 150% since 2000, driven, partly, by the increase of green areas surface in the city (Valladolid Municipality, 2018[39]).

The city is exposed to the risks of flooding. Valladolid is part of the Pisuerga-Esgueva Area of Potential Significant Flood Risk (Áreas de Riesgo Potencial Significativo de Inundación, ARPSIs). Between 2009 and 2013, floods have caused damages equivalent, on average, to EUR 1 506 255 per year (Duero Hydrographic Confederation, 2016[40]).


[14] Accenture (2015), “The circular economy could unlock $4.5 trillion of economic growth”, (accessed on 21 February 2020).

[8] Blomsma, F. and G. Brennan (2017), “The emergence of circular economy: A new framing around prolonging resource productivity”, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 21/3, pp. 603-614,

[21] Castile and León Autonomous Community (2018), Estadística Junta de Castilla y León, (accessed on 29 November 2019).

[17] Circle Economy (2020), The Circularity Gap Report,

[38] CTR Valladolid (2018), Datos del CTR, (accessed on 3 August 2019).

[37] CTR Valladolid (2018), Entradas de residuos en el año 2018, (accessed on 3 August 2019).

[40] Duero Hydrographic Confederation (2016), Plan de Gestión del Riesgo de Inundación, (accessed on 21 October 2019).

[22] EC (2019), EURES - Labour Market Information - Castilla y León, European Commission, (accessed on 31 May 2019).

[9] EC (2015), Closing the Loop – An EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy, European Commission, (accessed on 21 February 2020).

[16] EEA (20016), Environmental Indicator Report 2016 - In Support to the Monitoring of the 7th Environment Action Programme, European Environment Agency, (accessed on 21 February 2020).

[12] Ekins, P., Domenech, T., Drummond, P., Bleischwitz, R., Hughes, N. and Lotti, L. (2019), “The Circular Economy: What, Why, How and Where”. Background paper for an OECD/EC Workshop on 5 July 2019 within the workshop series “Managing environmental and energy transitions for regions and cities”, Paris.

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[10] Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2018), What is a Circular Economy?, (accessed on 21 February 2020).

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[33] Everis Foundation (2016), La UVA, entre las diez mejores de España en Ciencias e Ingeniería, El Norte de Castilla, (accessed on 1 August 2019).

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[28] INE (2016), Contabilidad regional de España - Producto Interior Bruto regional, (accessed on 1 August 2019).

[23] INNOLID 2020+ (2017), Estrategia de desarrollo urbano, sostenible e integrado para la ciudad de Valldolid, (accessed on 11 June 2019).

[34] Interreg Europe (2019), Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP), Interreg Europe, (accessed on 3 August 2019).

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[41] McCarthy, A., R. Dellink and R. Bibas (2018), “The Macroeconomics of the Circular Economy Transition: A Critical Review of Modelling Approaches”, OECD Environment Working Papers, No. 130, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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[4] OCDE (2012), OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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[1] UN (2018), “68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050”, United Nations, (accessed on 6 November 2019).

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[30] Valladolid Municipality (2019), Valladolid en Cifras Website, (accessed on 11 June 2019).

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[31] Valladolid Municipality (2018), Subvenciones para el retorno del talento al municipio de Valladolid, (accessed on 11 June 2019).

[3] World Bank (2010), World Development Report 2010, World Bank,


← 1. Air pollutant concentrations refer in particular to Particulate Matter (PM10).

← 2. Amec Foster Wheeler: see focus area profiles in this document (pp. 20-30) (2015),

← 3. For more information, see:

← 4. The REMOURBAN project promotes electric mobility and buildings’ energy efficiency (e.g. in the FASA district in Las Delicias neighbourhood). The Urban Green Up project, which will be executed until 2023, provides nature-based solutions towards a more resilient city.

← 5. The share of population younger than 15 years old in relation to the population older than 64.

← 6. Available data for 2018 shows the following GDP values: Castile and León (EUR 24 397) and Spain (EUR 25 854) (INE, 2018[43]).

← 7. The automotive sector counts 42 companies based in the Province including big international firms subsidiaries (Iveco, Michelin and Renault) which create 14 000 direct jobs and produce EUR 7 million a year on average (INNOLID 2020+, 2017[23]).

← 8. At the municipal level, unemployment data is calculated considering the number of unemployed workers registered under the Public Employment Service (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal, SEPE) in relation to the working population (between 16 and 64 years old) (Valladolid Municipality, 2019[42]).

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