2. Family support and protection in Spain

Family policy refers to social programmes conferring rights and benefits to family members to support them in raising and providing care to minor children and other dependent persons. The main instruments are cash benefits, in-kind services including childcare and tax breaks, and family leave benefits or working time flexibility to take care of children and relatives. Laws and their interpretation by courts and administrations define not only the scope of these transfers, tax breaks and services, but importantly also which households count as families that have access to these benefits.

Spain’s historical legacy hampered the development of a strong family support policy for several decades, but the national and regional governments have re-discovered this policy area from the mid-1990s and particularly mid-2000s onwards. During Franco’s era (1939-75), a pro-natalist policy was one of the regime’s grounding elements. Even if families’ benefits and social rights were weak and flawed, this ideological stance tainted the programmes of political parties that held power afterwards (Valiente Fernández, 1996[1]). As a result, Spanish Governments dismissed the possibility of developing a family support policy for many years. For a long time, family policy remained one of the least developed areas of social policy and was characterised by privatisation, an assistential rather than universal character and fragmentation (Meil, 2015[2]). Since the beginning of the century, regional public bodies started developing their powers in social assistance and taxation. More recently, successive central governments developed labour and social security family benefits, improved family taxation and promoted better co-ordination of family-related measures in health, education, and social assistance. The modern legitimations for family policy have been the compensation of family burdens (Meil, 2002[3]); gender equality (Guillén, 2002[4]; Meil, 2002[3]; Valiente, 2003[5]) and more recently child well-being (CIIMU, 2007[6]; Marí-Klose et al., 2008[7]; Gómez-Granell and Mari-Klose, 2012[8]; Flaquer, Cano and Barbeta-Viñas, 2020[9]).

The structure of this chapter is as follows: After a brief review of the historical evolution of Spanish family law and of the role of family policy in the Spanish constitution, the chapter presents the role of the main family policy actors. It then describes the structure and coverage of different family benefits and services.

One of the main features of the Spanish model of family support is that it has primarily focused on the special needs of families raising more children than the average. In line with the falling fertility rates, what is defined as ‘larger than average’ has changed over the past century, from eight children in 1926 to three as of 1994. In addition, other circumstances that might mean that families need more support – such as a child’s or parent’s disability or working incapacity, the parent’s death or the break-up of parents’ marriage – have also come to be reflected in the law. The foundation of large family protection laws can be found in the natalism encouraged by the fascist movements that dominated Spanish politics for several decades, though the later continued focus was principally based in the acknowledgement that large families were often most at risk of poverty. The dictatorship led by Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-30) approved the first protective regulations for large families.1 Later, the regime that emerged from the civil war enacted a general act for the protection of large families,2 the preamble of which emphasised the Francoist regulation’s natalist goals. Later on, Act 25/1971,19.6.1971, on the protection of the large families, updated this regulation and moderated the discourse. The number of children was relevant, but also the protection of children with intellectual disabilities. The currently in force Law on the Protection of Large Families (LPFN) repealed this Act,3 and pointed to the specific problems large families face regarding the costs of children’s care and education and access to housing that needed to be remedied through public policy to satisfy the constitutional principle of real and effective equality.

Traditional Spanish families were marriage-based extended families living in households of several generations. They shared the ideas of patriarchy, family solidarity and independence from the state. These features also characterised Spanish family laws for decades and were enshrined in the 1 889 Civil Code and the 1960s Compilations of regional civil laws (which applied for example in Aragon, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Basque Country, Galicia and Navarra). The Spanish family policy under Franco dictatorship was heavily inspired by the Roman Catholic Church. Parents and children were united by indissoluble ties under the patriarchal authority of the husband and father, while the wife and mother was separated from the labour market and confined to the home in order to give birth and to care for the children. Family policy in Spain was born strongly marked by the will to compensate for economic burdens from household responsibilities so that the family as an institution was able to fulfil its functions as they were defined by the ideology of the authoritarian political regime (Meil, 1994[10]; Meil, 2002[3]; Meil, 2006[11]). At the end of the 1970s, Spanish families still had many children (for a total fertility rate of 2.77), and the number of marriages was high. Extended families were on the wane, though there were regional differences: in areas of Northern Spain, Western Andalusia and Southern Extremadura, they continued to be more important while in other areas, families were increasingly nuclear (Flaquer, 1990[12]; Flaquer and Soler, 1990[13]). Although an increasing number of women studied, few had jobs outside the home, and even fewer were in liberal professions or leadership positions. Even from the legal point of view, married women did not have full legal capacity. Divorce did not exist, and even legal separation had to be based on one of the spouses’ fault. Spouses who were at fault lost their rights vis-a-vis their children and spousal support. Children born out of the wedlock had a lower legal status than children born within marriage, and single mothers had no rights.

Changes started to occur at the end of the 1950s with the opening of the Spanish economy to international markets and continued in the 1960s and early 1970s under the impression of inward tourism and massive emigration of Spaniards to higher-income European countries. The social and economic development after Franco’s death in 1975 and the passing of the new Constitution in 1978 opened the gate to the swift modernisation of customs. Since the 1980s, more and more Spanish women enrolled in higher education and participated in the labour market, leading to changes in traditional family life. At the beginning of the 20-first century, later marriage and family formation, an increase of cohabitation and the number of children born out of wedlock, and more instability of both married and non-married intimate relations characterise Spanish society (Meil Landwerlin, 1999[14]).

Spanish family law only reacted slowly to the changes in family life. However, since 1981 and especially after 2005, many reforms have placed Spanish family law in line with international developments in divorce, same-sex marriage, parenthood, parental responsibilities, child custody and support, de facto couples, adoption and child protection (Martín-Casals and Ribot Igualada, 2008[15]). One of the most important consequences of the turn away from conservative social policies is that the prior theme of family policy as a public compensation for family burdens as an explicit goal in public discourse has been reduced and complemented by the fight against childhood poverty and by the promotion of the reconciliation between family and working life (Meil, 1994[10]; Meil, 2002[3]; Meil, 2006[11]).

One of the main features of the modernisation of family life is the individualisation of family members’ legal position. Article 32 of the Constitution enshrines the principle of equality of husband and wife within marriage; and family law got rid of all remains of patriarchal regulations many years ago.4 Regarding the marital property regime, since the beginning of the century, a remarkable increase in marriage agreements has taken place that substitute the default marital property regime of community of acquisitions (sociedad de gananciales) [Article 1 316 of the Civil Code (CC)] by the separation of property regime. In the former, the couple’s community gains are liable for debts or other expenses linked to supporting family members, and assets remaining at death or divorce are divided equally between spouses. The optional separation of property regime [Article 1 435 to 1 444 CC] does not automatically create any common property, and a spouse who might have prioritised unpaid over paid work only has a legal right to an unspecified compensation. This compensation can even be waived, provided there is no duress or undue influence. The Spanish Civil Code lacks a specific regime for prenuptial agreements, but case law admits their validity based on freedom of contract [Article 1 255 and 1 321 CC]. Their usual content waives rights to which spouses may be entitled to upon separation or divorce. The Supreme Court declared void agreements that are seriously damaging for one of the spouses in its first ruling on the topic [Supreme Court Sentence (Sentencia del Tribunal Supremo – STS) 24.6.2015], but has recently taken a more liberal stance, for example declaring a prenuptial agreement as valid despite the wife’s protests that she knew little Spanish at the time of signing and that the agreement was highly detrimental to her [STS 30.5.2018].

Another feature of the modernisation is the opening of marriage to same-sex couples through a 2005 reform of the civil code and the increasing role of civil marriage. Despite the explicit wording of Article 32 CE, the Constitutional Court rejected a literal translation and ruled that Act 13/2005 was constitutional [Constitutional Court Sentence (Sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional – STC) 198/2012] and in line with present-day legal culture. Although the legislature could have chosen to offer a different legal regime to same-sex couples, it was also within its rights to introduce marriage as the only regime for all, regardless of sexual orientation. In 2019, there were around 5 000 same-sex marriages, representing 3% of all marriages. Theoretically, opposite- and same-sex couples alike can choose between a civil or religious marriage; but currently, no religious community in Spain offers same-sex couples the option of a religious marriage. Since 2009, more couples have opted for a civil than for a religious marriage. In 2019, 79.1% chose a civil marriage, 20.5% a Catholic and 0.4% a non-Catholic religious marriage (INE, 2020[16]; INE, 2021[17]).

The liberalisation of divorce laws is a third aspect of the modernisation of Spanish family law. Initially forbidden, divorce became a possibility through a model of no-fault divorce based on irretrievable marital breakdown, evidenced by long periods of legal separation (Martin-Casals, Ribot and Solé, 2003[18]). However, this model entailed a duplicity of procedures and delayed the solution of marital conflicts, increasing acrimony and costs for the parties and for the justice system as a whole. It even made it possible that disputes already closed during separation procedures could reopen in the subsequent divorce procedure (Carrasco Perera, 2004[19]). A 2005 reform (Act 15/2005) introduced divorce on demand. It can be requested and granted without recurring to any legal ground for divorce [Articles 81 and 82 CC]. These divorces can be filed unilaterally or by mutual consent; and can be fast-tracked when they are non-contested. In this case, the divorcing spouses are required to agree on the custody of joint children, the use of the family home, child and spousal support, and marital property division. This agreement must be approved unless it is harmful to any minor children or seriously damaging to one spouse. Since 2015, non-contested divorces can also be granted by secretaries of the court and public notaries, provided that no minor or incapacitated children are involved [Article 82.2 CC as amended by Final Provision 1.23 Act 15/2015].

In addition, there was a strong judicial and legislative trend towards recognising de facto partners’ rights and duties during the 1990s. Closely following the regulatory model established by the Catalan Act 1998 on Stable Unions, most Autonomous Communities passed specific statutes establishing legal effects of cohabitation. According to the Catalan and a few other regional Acts, legal effects apply automatically to partners who have lived together for at least two years or have a child together, while other regional acts on unmarried couples require registration of cohabitation arrangements in an administrative register. Until 2005, case law of the Spanish Supreme Court also showed a clear trend towards an approximation of de facto unions to marriage and fostered the recognition of economic effects in favour of the most vulnerable party after the union’s breakdown. The driving force behind legislation on de facto unions was the need to provide a legal framework for same-sex couples. After marriage was opened to same-sex couples in 2005, attempts to introduce a national regulation for de facto unions reached a deadlock. Case law also veered off under the assumption that “after same-sex marriage and unilateral divorce have been introduced, it can be said that cohabitation involves persons who in no way want to enter into marriage with its legal effects” [STS 12.9.2005 (RJ 2005\7148)] and that the principle of contractual freedom should prevail. Following similar reasoning, in 2013, the Constitutional Court declared void the Navarre Act on Stable Couples, which allowed compensatory payments and maintenance obligations arising from the breakdown of unregistered de facto unions. In 2019, de facto couples accounted for 15.1% of all households formed by couples with or without children.

Legislation on custody evolved in line with changes in marriage and divorce. Parents have the right and the duty to live with their underage children. If the parents do not live together, their mutual agreement or a judicial decision define their duties. For separated parents, there used to be a distinction between custody and access or visitation rights. Due to fathers’ demands to be more involved in their children’s lives, the division between sole physical custody and shared physical custody was introduced in the Civil Code in 2005. In the beginning, the code’s rules pointed to shared physical custody being an exception. But since then, the hurdles existing in the first version have been removed, and case law is inclined to grant shared physical custody as default regime unless it is demonstrably harmful to children [among many others STS 29.4.2013]. Several regional Acts also give legal preference to shared physical custody. These changes have indeed led to a growth in shared physical custody, though their prevalence across different Autonomous Communities still varies (see Chapter 1, Figure 1.3).

As a result of societal and legal changes, family models that depart from the traditional nuclear family with a married mother and father are of growing relevance for family law. New family types, some of them resulting from divorce or couple breakdown, such as blended, reconstituted and single-parent families, have become more common. Article 231-1 of the Catalan Civil Code is devoted explicitly to recognising this heterogeneity. It recalls that families are entitled to protection under the law, without discrimination based on whether they arise from marriage, de facto unions or are formed by a single parent with their descendants (see also Article 50 of Navarre Compilation of Foral Law, as amended by Article 2 Act 21/2019, 4.4.2019.). Nonetheless, certain family structures continue to present challenges with regards to their legal situation:

  • Step-parenthood is an old family situation, though it traditionally resulted from widowhood in contrast to predominantly divorce, separation or single motherhood from the outset of the child’s life today. In blended families, both partners are step-parents since they bring their own children to the household that they share. From a legal standpoint, the status of step-parenthood is far from clear. Stepchildren’s support and education costs are to be shared by both spouses when they living in the same household. However, in most cases, the step-parent does not hold legal parental responsibilities over their stepchild. Exceptions occur in Aragon, where the so-called ‘family authority’ is exercised jointly by the step-parent and their spouse [Article 85.1 Aragon Foral Law Code (D-Leg 1/2011, 22.3.2011)], and to a lesser extent in Catalonia, where the Civil Code recognises a right to participate in decisions relating to step-children’s daily life [Article 236-14.1 CCCat]. Adopting step-children is usually not an option because it severs the other biological parent’s legal ties with the child. When the couple in a reconstituted or blended family split up, step-parents owe no child support [STSJ Catalonia 23.2.2006]. They can ask for contact with stepchildren as ‘close friends’ or a new type of relatives (allegados) unless this is not in the stepchildren’s best interest [Article 160 CC = Article 236-4.2 CCCat]. In exceptional situations, they can also be awarded custody. In the case of biological parent’s death, the step-parent may be appointed as a guardian. Step-children keep their original family name and do not have legal succession rights or duties with regards to their step-parent.

  • While adoptive parenthood is legally identical to biological parentage, foster family care does not create any link of filiation. Since there are fewer children who could potentially be adopted than prospective parents who would like to, Spain was one of the leading destinations for internationally adopted children some years ago, though more recently there has been a drop. In contrast, the number of children under child protection measures has grown. In most serious cases of child neglect or abuse, child protection authorities separate children from their parents and place them in the care of relatives or foster families [Article 172 CC]. Foster family care was introduced in a reform of the Civil Code in 1987. The placement of children in a foster family occurs through an administrative order or, in cases where the biological parents oppose the placement, through a judicial order. Care orders can be for emergency, temporary or permanent care [Article 173 bis 2 CC]. Although foster parents are neither parents nor legal guardians (the latter role belongs to the public authorities), they are treated as if they were and are required to “(…) guarantee the foster child’s full participation in their family life and (…) feed, educate and provide them with a comprehensive training in a caring environment” [Article 154 CC]. However, foster family carers are not the legal representatives of foster children, and only permanent foster family carers may be judicially granted full parental responsibilities. Foster family carers can be remunerated and compensated for the costs of raising foster children.

  • Family formation through medically assisted reproduction has been regulated in Spain since 1988 (Act 35/1988). The law allows the artificial insemination with a partner’s or donor sperm and in vitro fertilisation for couples and single women. Married women must have their spouse’s consent, in which case the partner is automatically the father, whether or not donor sperm is used. The male non-marital partner of the woman can also be the child’s legal father if he has given his consent. Each child can only have two parents and surrogates would legally be the mother. Currently, the law explicitly forbids surrogacy agreements, though some initiatives to repeal the prohibition have been introduced to the parliament. The issue remains highly controversial and a compromise is not in sight. Meanwhile, following the general criteria set up by the European Court of Human Rights, the Supreme Court admitted that if there is family life between commissioning couples and children, the former can use any available way to legalise the situation and register the children as theirs. Following this pragmatic view, social courts also decided in favour of granting parental leave and social allowances to commissioning parents.

Family policy in the Spanish Constitution The Spanish Constitution of 1978 includes a specific provision on family support policy. Article 39.1 of the Spanish Constitution states that “The public authorities shall ensure the social, economic and legal protection of the family.” The antecedents of Article 39.1 can be found in international texts highlighting the central role of families in social life, which entails the need for their protection and support.5 The preliminary version of the provision also clarified that the protection was meant to be “in particular, through social benefits, tax provisions and any other appropriate measures” (Espín Cánovas, 1996[20]; Gálvez, 1984[21]). Article 39 is the first of the so-called ‘Governing Principles of Economic and Social Policy’, enshrined in Chapter III of Part I of the Spanish Constitution. These principles shall be the basis of legislation, judicial practice and any public authority’s actions. Yet, they cannot be used by individuals in claims before the ordinary courts unless they have been developed by the corresponding statutes and regulations (Article 53.3 CE).

While legislators are occasionally accused of violating the principle enshrined in Article 39.1. through inaction, the Constitutional Court has clarified that the Governing Principles do not force lawmakers to create laws. The Court has stated that “the nature of the guiding principles of the social and economic policy contained in chapter III of Part I makes it unlikely that any legal provision can be considered unconstitutional by omission” (STC 45/1989, 20.2.1989). Therefore, it is the task of the legislator to articulate the normative or other instruments through which to make effective the constitutional mandate, “and none of them is a priori constitutionally required” (STC 222/1992, 11.12.1992). “The legislator enjoys the freedom to articulate measures that involve support to families through tax benefits, social benefits or a dual system that combines both techniques (…). From a constitutional point of view, the legislator must be recognised the freedom to use the means considered more suitable on the circumstances of each case” [STC 214/1994, 14.7.1994].6

The interplay of the different articles of the Constitution define the scope of action in family policy. Article 39.1 provides legitimacy to measures aimed at protecting the family even when they might contradict the principles of equal treatment and economic capacity for taxation purposes as enshrined by Article 31 [STC 209/1988, 10.11.1988]. Conversely, decisions that entail treating a person worse because they are part of a (large) family are unconstitutional because they violate Articles 14, 39.1 and 31 [STC 77/2015, 27.4.2015; STC 209/1988, 10.11.1988 and 45/1989, 20.2.1989].7 Similarly, legal measures that refer to the protection of the family cannot exclude non-married children because “this would amount to discrimination on the grounds of birth prohibited by Article 14 CE” [STC 74/1997, 21.4.1997]. New legislation was passed in 1981 to fully redraft the Civil Code provisions on parenthood to conform with the new legal constitutional principles that ruled that discriminating children born outside wedlock was unconstitutional.8

The Constitutional Court has adopted an open concept of family, but this does not preclude different legal treatment of diverse family types. The concept of family is independent of marriage (Roca Trías, 1990[22]) and of the existence of children [STC 222/1992, 11.12.1992; 116/1999, 17.6.1999 and 198/2012, 6.11.2012], and does not identify “the legal family only with the natural or biological family” [STC 116/1999,17.6.1999].9 However, the Court also noted that “public measures which grant a different and more favourable treatment to the family unit based on marriage shall not necessarily be incompatible with Article 39” [STC 184/1990, 15.11.1990; and also STC 60/2014, 5.5.2014].

There is no clear-cut distribution of the regulatory powers on family policy among the state, the regions and local authorities. Being interdisciplinary, family policy relates to different areas where the state and the regions have exclusive or shared constitutional entitlements to lay down rules. Basic social security regulation belongs to the state (Article 149.1,17 CE), whereas social assistance remains a regional policy area (Article 148.1,20 CE). Local authorities apply the regulatory framework provided by the state or by the regions; but have also been allowed to develop particular rules in certain particularly important areas, such as the requirements to have access to early childhood education and childcare services. In other family policy areas, the state and the regions share the regulatory powers. For example, the state provides the basic legal framework for education, and the regions execute their programs. The regions collect several taxes, and may in some cases provide tax breaks. They can also introduce variations in the income tax to accommodate their policies in many areas of life and the economy.

Bearing in mind the complex distribution of substantive competences among these actors, inter-institutional co-operation is essential in this field. Regional framework regulations have been enacted to comply with Article 39.1 on the protection of the family of the Spanish Constitution. Yet, the Autonomous Communities have sought to reinforce their competence to enact these legal measures by invoking their powers in related matters, notably in the field of assistance and social services, child protection, housing and transportation. On the other hand, the central government competences in some areas are crucial for the development of effective policies to protect the family, particularly in matters of labour law and social security protection and taxation issues. The state’s competences are a limitation for regional instruments, most of which simply mention benefits that are regulated by the state.

At the national level, government action in family support has taken two directions. Some governments have favoured the approval of co-ordination plans but have focused less on taking substantial steps forward in introducing changes in the legal framework for family support policy. Other governments have enacted specific legal measures aimed at triggering social changes in the areas of parental leave, work-family reconciliation measures and updating family protection within social security. There have also been initiatives regarding early education and care, though they are often conceptualised as educational rather than as family policy. This conceptualisation as a policy falling into a different area than family policy is also the case for the 2006 Law promoting the autonomy and care of people in a situation of dependence. This section focuses on comprehensive support plans and the national legal framework, while later sections discuss more targeted legal measures.

There have been two co-ordination plans on family policy within the areas of state competence:

  • Comprehensive Family Support Plan: From the 1990s onwards, there was a change in attitude towards state family policy, prompted by the 1994 declaration of the International Year of the Family by the United Nations. The Popular Party Government reached an agreement with the Catalan centre-right party Convergència i Unió in December 1997, joined by left-wing political forces. The Comprehensive Family Support Plan that was the product of this negotiation was approved in 2001 (Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración, 2002[23]). In terms of legislation, this plan improved families’ taxation and renewal the legal framework of large families (see below). However, the plan itself did not activate other measures that would allow Spain to start converging with other Western countries.

  • Second Comprehensive Family Support Plan: After its return as the governing party in 2011, the Popular Party began preparing a second plan approved for the period 2015-17 (MSCBS, 2015[24]). The plan’s main goal was to co-ordinate the actions of different ministries whose policies affected families and their well-being in a context of significant socio-economic challenges. It assigned families a central role that would only be supported by public policies in cases where this was necessary. It did not yet see the growing family diversity as a defining element of the contemporary family but rather as an exception (Comas d’Argemir, Marre Cifola and San Roman Sobrino, 2016[25]). The plan generally did not establish new rights but rather scheduled reforms, the majority of which were already in motion (Arriba González de Duran and Moreno Fuentes, 2015[26]). The plan defined four basic lines of action:

    1. 1. Social and economic protection of families following active inclusion strategic lines: Prioritising unemployed individuals with children in activation programmes, offering fiscal support and improving cash transfers for families, and giving priority to families in social housing schemes.

    2. 2. Improving work-family balance: Reform labour market practices to increase flexibility in working hours, facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life, etc.

    3. 3. Supporting maternity: Offering support to socio-economically vulnerable pregnant women and children, and higher old-age pensions for women with two or more children.

    4. 4. Promoting positive parenthood: Setting up educational programmes to promote good parenthood practices, fighting school dropout, co-ordinating social services and third sector organisations working on family issues.

With the accession to power of the Socialist Party in 2003, family policy shifted to a gender focus, including strong emphasis in setting new family law provisions (Acts 15/2005, 8.7.2005, modifying the Civil Code and the Act for civil procedure regarding separation and divorce) and tackling gender-based violence against women (Organic Act 1/2004. 28.12.2004, on integrated protection measures against gender-based violence). Concerning social security protection, the period between 2007 and 2009 saw new measures promoting the effective equality of women and men, including new paternity leave10 and an allowance for the birth of children (Act 35/2007, 15.11.2007), though the latter was repealed shortly after due to the budget difficulties linked to the global financial crisis. In the field of early childhood education and care (ECEC), the 2008 Plan Educa3 aimed to expand the public ECEC offer and coverage for children under 3 years old in co-operation with Autonomous Communities and municipalities.

More recently, after the Socialist Party once again became the governing party in 2018, substantive reforms aimed at increasing fathers’ involvement in childrearing were introduced, particularly with regard to new parental leaves that are equal and non-transferable for mothers and fathers (RD-Act 6/2019, 1.3.2019, on urgent measures to guarantee equal treatment and opportunities between women and men in employment and occupation). Early Childhood Education and Care for children under three-year olds, which had been placed outside educational regulation since 2013, has been included again in new education-related laws and regulations. In practice, the Autonomous Communities have had some scope to develop these services either as falling under education or other regulations, such as those related to social services.

The only national legal framework on family policy currently in force is Act 40/2003, 18.11.2003, regarding the protection of large families [Ley de Protección a las Familias Numerosas – LPFN]. The First Final Provision of LPFN stipulates that the act “defines the basic conditions to guarantee the social, legal and economic protection of large families in accordance with the provisions of Articles 39 and 53 of the Constitution, [and] it is of general application following subsections 1, 7 and 17 of Article 149.1 of the Constitution”. These subsections of Article 149.1 lay down the state’s exclusive competence for regulating “the basic conditions that guarantee the equality of all Spaniards in the exercise of rights and the fulfilment of constitutional duties”, and the “basic legislation and economic regime of the Social Security”. Based on this constitutional framework, title I of LPFN sets forth general provisions on the concept of a large family, the conditions that its members must meet, the categories of this type of families, and the procedures for recognition, renewal, modification or loss of the legal status as a large family. According to the national legislature, most components of the LPFN are deemed basic law and have direct application throughout Spain. Prevailing case law also confers basic nature to § 1 of the Additional Provision 2 LPFN, which states that “the benefits established under this Act for family units that are recognised as large families have the nature of a minimum and shall be compatible with or accumulated to any others that, for whatever reason, the members of these families enjoy”.

The definition of families that get treated as large under the law depends on the family size but also accounts for special situations. Article 2 LPFN provides that a large family comprises one or two parents with three or more children, whether or not they are joint children of the spouses. Between the parents, there must exist a marital bond: if they are not married, the large family status can only be granted to one of the parents [STSJ Murcia (Administrative Chamber, Section 1) 417/2001, 16.6.2001 (RJCA\2001\856)]. However, disability and loss of parents can also confer the status of large family. For example, families with two children can be counted as large when one of the following conditions apply: one of the children is disabled or unable to work; both parents are disabled or unable to work or one parent suffers from a disability of a degree equal to or greater than 65%; one of the parents has died, or the children are orphaned siblings living with a foster family.11 The separated or divorced parents of three or more children can keep the status provided that the children are under their economic dependence.12 Parents who do not live with the children must prove that they have been ordered to pay child support. At any rate, if parents disagree, the custodial parent is the beholder of the large family title. Special large families are families with five or more children or four children, of whom three are from multiple childbirth or adoption or permanent or pre-adoption foster family care; or four children but whose income falls below an income threshold.13 The children who get counted normally need to be younger than 21, though there is no age limit for disabled individuals and the limit can be extended to 25 for students, single, and living with their parents or sibling and depending financially on them (Article 4 LPFN).14

Although single-parent family may likewise have specific needs, there is no state regulatory framework on single-parent families, but there are significant references to single parenthood in other regulations. These include for example personal income tax regulation and some social security benefits. The personal income tax regulation grants access to joint family taxation to a type of family unit consisting of father or mother and all the children who live with him or her “in cases of legal separation, or when there is no marriage bond” (Article 82.1 LIRPF). There are also specific state tax deductions for single-parent families. In 2008, the social security legislation added a reference to the single-parent family in the context of social benefits regulation in case of birth or adoption. The definition provided is different from the one used by tax law and points to the family formed by a single parent with whom the child lives and who constitutes the family’s sole breadwinner. Other references to single parenthood may also be found in housing programmes and the regulation of education scholarships.

Since 2003, Spain’s Autonomous Communities have developed an extensive array of legal instruments on family policy. Some Autonomous Communities enacted specific Framework Acts for Family Support that defined benefits and basic principles of administrative actions in the sphere of family support (Table 2.1). Others approved Strategic Multiannual Family Support Plans to guide government policy and implementation, which may or may not stipulate a need for evaluation reports.15 In some Autonomous Communities, these plans or acts were one-offs, while in others (such as in the Basque Country), there have been several consecutive Family Support Plans. In some regions, family support measures focus on specific benefits or services, or target special needs or family types. Besides the general or specific protective instruments, most regions have defined family-specific tax breaks in their regional tax codes. In addition to the legal instruments, regions may also implement analyses to better help them plan policies and programmes. For example, in 2020 the Secretariat General of Families of the Andalusian regional government started working in parallel on a diagnostic report on the situation of families as well as on a new family plan; and the Basque Country accompanied its four Family Support Plans aside from the first one with evaluations.

Regional laws try to ensure that sector-specific regional policies respect the constitutional principle of family support and protection and establish basic principles for the operation of family protection and support policies. These instruments seek to comply with the constitutional mandate not only through promotion policies but also through mechanisms that promote family life and place emphasis on the reconciliation of work and family life. Regional laws also aim to cover areas where the central government’s protection is lacking or insufficient (Palomar Olmeda and Terol Gómez, 2017[27]). They often lay out services aimed at vulnerable families, including in access to housing, educational resources, transportation, parenting abilities, leisure activities, tax measures and financial benefits. The laws usually also set up advisory bodies, as well as channels for stakeholders’ participation. Generally, regional family support laws only refer to programs, services, and benefits provided by the administrations linked to the territory of the corresponding autonomous community. Often, however, there are ambiguities, so that the protection granted to the families embraces services or benefits provided by the central state administration or the local authorities.

Leave arrangements for working parents is one example of a family policy area in which many Autonomous Communities have introduced supplementary measures since 2000. A number of regional governments introduced payments to parents taking unpaid parental leave or reducing their working hours. For example, the Basque Country, Navarre, La Rioja, Galicia, Castilla La Mancha or Castilla-León have provided flat-rate payments proportional to the working time reduction. However, Navarre abolished these payments in 2011, and Castilla La Mancha and Castilla-León in 2012. This latter region has implemented a new benefit in 2020. Catalonia introduced additional benefits for the leave of public-sector employees in 2002. For example, these workers were able to reduce their working hours by a third or one half while only seeing their pay reduced by 20 or 40%, respectively, if they have a child under six years of age or had to care for a disabled relative (Meil, Escobedo and Lapuerta, 2021[28]).

In terms of the relationship between regional and state laws, regional legislatures cannot reduce the benefits existing at the entry into force of the Law on the Protection of Large Families, but could only modify or replace them by measures equivalent to those that existed before the LPFN. Some scholars have noted that “the comprehensive regional laws for family support have assumed the validity [of LPFN] by referring to it or by assuming its regulation within the broader protection framework that they have created” (Palomar Olmeda and Terol Gómez, 2017[27]).16

There is a question whether regional legislatures may modify the large family’s definition by adding instances to the ones set up by basic state law (Article 2 LPFN). For example, Article 3.1 D (Catalonia) 151/2009, 29.9.2009, defines large families as those “determined by current legislation”, but also includes unmarried cohabitating couples.17 Another example is Article 6 Act (Balearic Islands) 8/2018, 31.7.2018, which also defines large families as those “determined by current state legislation”, but immediately adds “single-parent families with a child with a recognised disability of 33% or higher”. In contrast, according to Article 2.2 LPFN, to be the holder of a large family’s title, the single-parent must live with two children, and at least one of them must be a person with a disability or unable to work. The issue arose indirectly in a case where the Constitutional Court rejected a question of unconstitutionality about a regional provision stipulating that children in mother’s womb were counted when ranking families in case of shortage of public-school places. The state objected that the regional legislature had modified the basic rule of Article 2 LPFN, as large family definition applies to parents and already-born children. The Constitutional Court held that “the contested provision [was to be deemed valid because it] does not introduce a general and abstract rule on how to count the members that make up a family, which would modify the requirements to obtain the status of a large family” (STC 271/2015, 17.12.2015). If that is the constitutional threshold, the regional provisions mentioned above would be unconstitutional because they amend the definition of large family laid down by state basic rules by adding other family arrangements. The development by the Autonomous Communities of regulation for other family types, such as single-parent families, may also give rise to further doubts, especially if regional provisions equate the protection afforded to single-parent families with that of large families.18 At any rate, the Autonomous Communities did not challenge the constitutionality of the LPFN in 2003. And the state has not questioned the above-mentioned regional developments regarding large families and single-parent families. It seems plausible to conclude that the state has not reacted because regional laws modify basic concepts only to supplement rather than diminish the scope of the protection afforded by basic state law. Moreover, the application of regional rules is limited to their territories and competences and does not impinge upon state allowances or benefits.

The lack of a national framework on single-parent families equivalent to the regime for large families prompted some regional legislatures to enact legal frameworks at the regional level (Table 2.2). They referred to the constitutional principle of the family’s social, economic and legal protection and pointed to the growing number of single-parent families and their typical greater vulnerability. For example, in Navarra, legislators mentioned the more frequent problems of single parents to access employment.

Most regions followed the template provided by the state legislation for the protection of large families. Catalonia approved the first regulation that defined single-parent status (Article 2 Act 18/2003, 4.7.2003) as a “family with minor children who live and depend economically on a single person” (Vela Sánchez, 2005[29]). Years later, however, the regulation broadened the definition to include children of legal age, provided that the children meet some specific requirements equivalent to those laid down by the LPFN. On occasion, the regional provisions point out that “the other parent does not contribute financially to their maintenance” (Article 13 (Galicia) 3/2011, 30.6.2011) or that “in no case families those in which shared physical custody have been established by court order shall be deemed single-parent” (Article 2.3 Decree (Basque Country) 164/2019, 22.10.2019). All regional provisions emphasise that single parenthood means that the parent is no longer living with their spouse or de facto partner (see for example Article 46 (Aragon) 9/2014, 23.10.2014), and has not remarried or entered into a de facto union.19 Some regions also treat some families with two parents as being in the situation of single parenthood, when one parent cannot count on the support of the other due to severe dependency or disability, lengthy imprisonment or hospitalisation.20 Another example of the influence of the LPFN on regional legislation on single-parent families is the decision to establish special categories among the latter for families with disabled children or parents, low income or whose mother was the victim of gender-based violence (see also Box 2.1).21 Single parent large families may not cumulate applicable benefits unless specific provisions state otherwise. 22

Aside from the state, regional and local governments, other policy actors that have a role in shaping family policy or in delivering services and benefits for families include advisory and observatory bodies, non-governmental advocacy and service provider organisations, the social partners and private companies.

The sixth additional provision of the Law for the Protection of Large Families stipulated that a Family Observatory (Observatorio de la familia) should be established as a unit integrated in the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Its functions were to create knowledge on the situation of families and their quality of life, monitor social policies that have an impact upon them, make recommendations in relation to public policies and carry out studies and publications that contribute to a better understanding of the needs of the family. A 2007 decree (RD 613/2007, 11.5.2007) created the State Council on Families (Consejo Estatal de Familias) and the State Observatory on Families (Observatorio Estatal de Familias) as inter-ministerial collegiate bodies of an advisory and consultative nature intended to act as a stable framework for the participation and collaboration of family associations with the general state administration. In addition to the tasks above mentioned, the state council can issue reports, opinions and reports on the regulatory projects of the General State Administration related to its purposes, and engage in any initiative in the area of family policy that may be submitted for its consideration (Article 2.1).

In practice, the Family State Council and its Observatory were effectively operational between 2007 and 2011. During this time, they produced various reports and supporting campaigns. In 2011, its personal member’s mandate expired and was subsequently not renewed. Even while they were operational, they did not tackle the issue of monitoring and evaluation in a systematic way.

Similarly to the provision of the Law for the Protection of Large Families, the Autonomous Communities’ family support plans and laws also often set up advisory bodies to support follow-up and evaluation, as well as channels for stakeholders’ participation. These bodies may include representatives from the main concerned policy departments, including regional statistical bodies; from local entities; social partners; general and family-specific NGOs; youth councils and academic experts. For example, the Basque Observatory of Families, created by Decree 309/2010 (BOPV 02 December 2010), aims to analyse the reality, the situation and the problems of families in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, and the impact of the policies developed in application of Law 13/2008 to support families (Observatorio de las Familias, n.d.[30]). The Catalan Family Observatory was created in 1997 and its regulation has been updated various times. However, its website does not show recent activity (Departament de Drets Socials, n.d.[31]).

Research on family associations and representation in Spain (Ayuso, 2007[32]; Ayuso, 2009[33]) traced their historical developments and created a typology of these associations. The categories refer to their primary function, distinguishing between family organisations that respectively focus on advocacy, research or service provision. Other categorisations focus on their ideological stance, that is, whether they support more conventional or traditional family forms or whether they work towards a recognition of the pluralisation of family forms and new living arrangements. A more recent analysis (Ayuso, 2017:114) of the typology of family associations shows that in accordance with the diversification of family models, there has also been a shift in the types of family associations that exist. For example, there are now more associations representing new family models or advocating for children’s representation and rights, while there are fewer representing the interests of widowed parents.

In addition to associations focusing on families in general, organisations related to education have also been historically and quantitatively relevant in Spain. Even though they use to focus in education practical issues, they may have a broader potential. Catalan research showed that nearly all public and most private schools had such family organisations. Most families using any of its services ranging from lunch services to out-of-school care services, sports or cultural or leisure activities were in fact participants of such associations (Comas et al., 2013[34])

NGOs representing and working with families and children are also a relevant piece of local welfare systems, offering community participation and support services (Fraisse and Escobedo, 2014[35]; Flaquer, Escobedo and Anton, 2014[36]). In some sectors such as education, health and social services, they are particularly relevant. In addition to providing services at the local level, parents’ school organisations also have regional and national-level representation. They mainly seek to influence education policies, but have the potential to contribute in other areas of family support such as positive parenting. With lower general representation potential, but high specific agency, there is also the case for the associations of families with children or people with disabilities or chronic diseases, including mental health issues, which participate in some forums (e.g. Health or Patient’s regional councils).

Social partners are crucial in the implementation of policies and programmes related to the reconciliation of work and family life. This is particularly true since the 2007 Gender Equality Law introduced the requirement that initially large companies with more than 500 but since the 2019 reform also medium-sized companies with more than 50 employees have to create Gender Equality Plans. As in other countries, those plans require a diagnosis and negotiated measures in different aspects, including work-family measures. While there has been a good deal of research on the impact of the 2007 reform (Meil et al., 2008[37]), which has recently focused on the effects of fathers (Abril Morales et al., 2020[38]; Meil, Romero-Balsas and Castrillo-Bustamante, 2019[39]), a comprehensive follow-up and evaluation of the policy and of the work-family measures in particular does not exist. The tripartite state-level Consejo Económico y Social has published reports and recommendations related to the quality of work and of reconciliation between work and family life. Similar councils also exist at the level of the Autonomous Communities.

Companies can play a dual role in affecting outcomes related to family policy. On the one hand, as employers, they can institute practices that favour work-life balance, gender equality and diversity. On the other hand, they also provide goods and service to families and households. So far, private organisations and companies in the field of household and family service and goods provision have not participated in research and development clusters to the same extent as for example health or engineering companies do. As a result, they have benefited from research funds and partnerships to the same extent, which could add adaptability to address challenges related to social and environmental sustainability, where households and families play a relevant role. Two initiatives that deserve attention in this respect are the Catalan Kid’s Cluster created in 2010 and the ‘Zero Child Poverty Country Alliance’ started in 2021. The Kid’s Cluster brings together Catalan companies and non profit organisations, including the Bosch i Gimpera University of Barcelona Foundation, in a common space where they can obtain more resources to boost their business and services focused to the children’s sector. Currently the cluster is made up of more than 80 private and public entities (Kid’s Cluster, n.d.[40]). The Zero Child Poverty Alliance was launched by the Spanish High Commissioner against Child Poverty. It includes more than 75 public and private companies and organisations, “whose objective is to change the path of child poverty in Spain through collaboration between the Administration, companies, foundations and the third sector” (Alto Comisionado para la lucha contra la pobreza infantil, n.d.[41]).

Public expenditures that benefit families can take different forms. Individuals can receive cash benefits that specifically target families, such as child benefits, or that are open to single individuals as well, such as unemployment benefits. In addition, governments provide in-kind benefits and services such as day care, public schools, health care, tax breaks, etc. This section first provides overviews of the features and access conditions to the main transfer programmes, of early childhood care services, of family leave and housing policies. It then reviews the overall public spending on family benefits and services in Spain and presents evidence on the redistributive impact of the Spanish welfare state.

Family benefits in Spain are generally relatively modest and not universal. The crucial turning point was the restriction of family cash benefits from the Social Security to families with lower incomes or with disabled children following the Ley 26/1990, which pushed family policy towards a social assistance logic (Meil, 1995[42]). The Act converted the modest but universal Social Security child benefits into an allowance targeted towards low-income families or families with disabled children (Obiol Francés, 2006[43]). The lion’s share of expenditure was destined for children and adults with disabilities, while the low benefits levels for children without disabilities hardly increased over the nearly 30 years of the existence of the allowance.

A universal monetary benefit linked to the birth or adoption of a child was available from 2007 to 2011, but has since been restricted to selected situations. The monetary benefit was supposed to offset some of the initial costs associated with a new child and aimed at parents who could not apply the tax deduction based on childbirth or adoption because of their low income. The benefit consisted of a single payment of EUR 2 500 for each adopted or born child. It was abolished to reduce the public deficit (Blasco Lahoz and López Gandía, 2020[44]). Currently, the birth or adoption of a child only gives the right to a lump-sum payment in the event of multiple births or adoptions (Article 351 c) General Act on Social Security [LGSS]) or if it occurs in large or single-parent families or involves a mother with disabilities (Article 351 b) LGSS). For single-parent and large families, the benefit consists of a lump-sum payment of EUR 1 000 (Article 358.1 LGSS) and subject to an income limit that depends on the size of the family. Currently, this limit is set at EUR 13 508 per year for single-parent families and EUR 19 782 for large families. As a point of comparison, the average wage of a full-time employee in Spain was equal to EUR 27 468 in 2019. Each additional child increases the limit by 15%. For multiple births and adoptions, the benefit is equal to four times the monthly interprofessional salary (EUR 950 in 2020) for twins/two adopted children; eight times for three children and twelve times for four or more children.

Similarly, social security used to pay a means-tested non-contributory monetary allowance for dependent underage children from 1990 to 2020 (Article 351 a) LGSS), but now the allowance only applies to dependent children with a disability. The Final Provision 4 of RD-Act 20/2020 removed the monetary allowance for underage children in the context of the creation of the ingreso mínimo vital (minimum income scheme), a new social security non-contributory benefit addressing poverty, which has been established in May 2020. The next sub-section on other transfers will give more details on this benefit. The social security child allowance is thus now available only to parents of minors with a disability above 33% and dependent adult children with a disability above 65% (Article 351 a) LGSS). The benefit amount is EUR 1 000 per year and child, increased to EUR 4 747, with higher amounts for adult children with severe degrees of disability.23

While the abolishment of the more general (though not universal) benefit for dependent underage children could be seen as a loss for families, these benefits only played a residual role among transfers that families received. The benefits levels for children without disabilities were very low and not frequently updated: In 1990, the amount of the annual basic benefit was PTA 36 000 per child, amount to around EUR 18 per month. In 2019, a few months before the programme was discontinued, the last update of the benefit brought the monthly amount to EUR 28.4. Furthermore, the means test excluded most working families, including poor ones. The observed impact on child poverty was thus residual residual in comparison to other non-family related schemes such as unemployment benefits, which have much more impact on families with children (Marí-Klose, Julía and Redondo, 2019[45]).

Since 2016, childbirth and adoption lead to a benefit for women holding rights to contributory pensions of the social security system (Article 60 LGSS). This so-called ‘maternity pension supplement’, one of the measures of the Second Comprehensive Family Support Plan, increased the pension awarded to any woman who has had two or more biological or adopted children equal to 5% if she had two, 10% if she had three and 15% if she had four or more children.24 In their motivation for the law, the legislator pointed to the fact that mothers continued to do a large part of the care work and took the bulk of parental leave, and that the average pension of women was substantially lower than the average pension of men.

The European Court of Justice declared that the provision violates Council Directive 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978, on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security. This Directive precludes national legislation that makes provision for the right to a pension supplement for women while men in an identical situation do not have this right. The provision was deemed to be flawed because it makes no connection with the problems that women may have encountered in the course of their careers.25 However, until now, Article 60 has not been repealed. As a result, men are filing claims against the National Institute for Social Security on the basis that they have had two or more children.26 However, RD-Act 3/2021 substantially amended Article 60 LGSS. Since 2.2.2021, any woman who has had one or more biological or adopted children is entitled to a supplement to her contributory pensions, whose amount – currently EUR 378 per year and child – is to be defined each year by the General State Budget Act. Former beneficiaries of the right do not lose the supplement already granted. But now fathers are also entitled to claim the new supplement, provided they meet a number of (quite stringent) requirements proving that paternity and childcare harmed their contribution career. At any rate, the recognition of the supplement to the second parent entails the termination of the entitlement already recognised to the first parent.

The relatively smaller importance of family benefits within the Spanish social protection system can be seen in the low number of families that receive family benefits and the low amounts a family with average income levels receives in comparison to other OECD countries. First, the share of working-age parents who live in a household receiving family benefits was the second lowest among OECD countries for which data were available (Figure 2.1, Panel A). Second, in 2018, a single parent in Spain who worked half-time on a wage at the median of the full-time earnings distribution would receive family benefits equal to 2.2% of the average full-time earnings (Figure 2.1, Panel B). In contrast, the OECD average is equal to 13.7%; and the benefits even exceed 35% in Poland. Single-earner or double-earner two-parent families do not receive any family benefits in Spain. This stands in contrast with most other OECD countries, where these family types are also eligible for family benefits, though usually at a lower level (except in a few countries with flat benefits per children, such as Austria, Ireland and Switzerland).

Accordingly, family benefits are only residual component in public transfers received by families with children. After the abolishment of the universal birth allowance, family benefits as a share of all benefits received by families with minor children dropped from 6% to approximately 3%; and the proportion of recipients of family benefits nearly halved between 2007 and 2016 in most income quintiles with the exception of the lowest one. Paradoxically, while the share of recipients is highest in the lowest income quintile, it is higher in the fourth and fifth (i.e. the households with the highest 40% of incomes) than in the second and third ones. The average amount received families in the first quintile receive is about half of the amount households with higher income levels receive (Marí-Klose, Julía and Redondo, 2019[45]).

Unemployment protection is structured as contributory and non-contributory benefits.

The contributory unemployment allowance intends to provide substitutive income in the case of a job loss, a temporary contract suspension or the reduction of working time (Article 264 LGSS). The applicant must meet the requirements of affiliation and minimum contribution stipulated by Articles 266 and 269.1 LGSS. The total duration of the allowance depends on the type of contract and the prior work history, but is capped at 720 days (Article 269.1 LGSS). The initial allowance during the first 180 days is equal to 70% of the medium of the coverage amount during the 180 days before the contract termination or suspension, and 50% afterwards (Article 270.1 LGSS). However, there are also minimum and maximum amounts. If the unemployed worker is childless, the minimum amount is set at 80% of the monthly public multiple-effect income indicator (IPREM) (EUR 538 in 2020) increased by one-sixth, and the maximum at 175%. When the applicant has one or more dependent children, the minimum amount is set at 107%, and the maximum at 200% (one child) or 225% (two or more children).

Once the worker has exhausted the unemployment allowance, he or she may be eligible for a non-contributory unemployment subsidy. The amount and duration of the subsidy vary according to the age, duration of previous contributions and type of prior contract of the unemployed worker. The maximum amount is 80% of IPREM. The applicant receives the benefit for six months, but the duration can be extended for further six-months periods, up to 24 months. It is only available under exceptional circumstances laid out in Article 274 LGSS to those whose income is than 75% of the monthly minimum interprofessional salary, excluding the proportional part of two special payments (EUR 713). One of these circumstances, which applies regardless of the applicant’s age, is that he or she bears “family responsibilities”. The application of this requirement is not without issues. First, for the family means-test to be passed, the total family income, divided by number of family members, has to be lower than 75% of the minimum interprofessional salary on a per-capita basis; but if the other family member(s) earn an income and are thus not dependent on the unemployed worker, their income would also individually need to fall below the 75% ceiling (STS (Social Chamber) 30.5.2000 (RJ\2 000\5893). More recently, 2.3.2015 (RJ 2015\1635)). Second, relatives other than incapacitated children or children younger than 26, foster children, step children (if their maintenance is covered by the family unit) and spouses who are living under the same roof are not considered to belong to the family unit.27 This means that for example parents or grandparents, nieces or nephews and unmarried partners are not considered as part of the family unit.

Unlike family benefits, unemployment benefit levels are comparatively high in Spain; but coverage is average. A person who previously earned the average full-time wage and has been unemployed for a year has a net replacement equal to 59% (if they are single with two children) or 75% (if they are married with two children and their partner earns two-thirds of the average full-time wage) (Figure 2.2, Panel B). These replacement rates are more than 10 percentage points higher than the respective OECD averages. Nonetheless, several OECD countries have considerably higher net replacement rates. As is clear from the various eligibility conditions mentioned above, not all individuals who currently do not have a job but are actively searching for one and could start work within the next fortnight (the ILO definition of unemployment) are also eligible for the unemployment allowance or subsidy. In 2018, the ratio of unemployment insurance and assistance recipients to those that were unemployed according to the ILO definition in Spain was 52, below the OECD average of 68 (that however also includes countries where the ratio suggests a coverage rate well above 100%) (Figure 2.2, Panel A). Though direct evidence is not available, it is likely that parents and in particular mothers, who took time out of the labour force over part of the years prior to their unemployment, as well younger people are less likely to meet the contribution requirements and therefore to be uncovered. Nevertheless, among families with minor children, unemployment benefits made up 46.5% of the public transfers they received in 2013, though it had decreased by more than 10 percentage points by 2016 (Marí-Klose, Julía and Redondo, 2019[45]).

Since the late 1980s, the Autonomous Communities developed minimum income programmes to tackle an increase in new forms of poverty. The programmes differ across regions in their name, nature, access requirements, duration and amount. All regional programmes aim to provide an income to individuals lacking the financial means to cover their basic needs. Over the course of the years, most programmes have increased their activation requirements. Some regions guarantee the benefits to eligible beneficiaries, while others make it dependent on their available yearly budget. Initially, beneficiaries could only receive the payment for one or two years, but many programmes now award the benefit for an indefinite period, as long as the beneficiaries cannot overcome their situation. In many cases recipients are even allowed to work, provided that their income is below the minimum guaranteed income amount.28

The target of the minimum income schemes are not specifically families, but any person in need who lack access to public or private means to cover basic needs. The data show, however, that the number of underage children among the beneficiaries of minimum social inclusion income is high: over the 2002 to 2018 period, the number of people entitled to the benefit increased from 82 354 to 293 302. Among the dependent household members who benefitted, 110 070 were underage dependent children (MSCBS, 2018[49]). Applicants usually have to be at least 23 to 25 years old; and if they are filing individually, single and living independently from their family of origin for some time. Exceptions apply for persons taking care of persons with a disability or minor children; orphans lacking access to public pensions, gender-violence victims and divorced or separated spouses or former partners. All regional statutes consider the applicant’s family situation to determine benefit eligibility and amounts. Accordingly, the statutory provisions use relatively similar but nonetheless slightly varying definitions to define which members of the household belong to the applicant’s family making it difficult to synthesise the rules. Generally, however, spouses and de facto partners, as well as some, but not all, of the applicant’s relative and foster children who are living under the same roof are grouped as a family unit for the purposes of the benefits. The assets and incomes that are taken into account when determining eligibility differ across Autonomous Communities. Usually, the family home, specific social and childcare allowances are excluded, and child support allowances included in asset and income tests.

In addition to different eligibility requirements, the maximum amounts also varied strongly across the regional schemes. The guaranteed income amount varies substantially across regions. The average maximum monthly amount in 2018 was EUR 774. Three regions – Catalonia, Navarra and the Basque Country – pay maximum amounts over EUR 900 for a family unit. The different rules about who could be eligible for the income support schemes contribute to different coverage rates. When comparing the number of individuals whose households received associated payments in 2017 with the number of individuals living in severe poverty (defined as having an income below 30% of median income), the estimated coverage rates varied from 8% (in Castilla-La Mancha) to 274% (in Navarra). The Spanish average was 29% (FOESSA, 2020[50]), meaning that more than two in three persons living in extreme poverty did not receive this social assistance.

In 2020, the central government equally created a minimum income scheme (ingreso mínimo vital, IMV) as a social security non-contributory allowance aimed at addressing the risk of poverty and social exclusion (Gala Durán, 2020[51]). However, unlike some regional programmes, it currently exclusively focuses on covering financial needs. Other instruments to overcome poverty and social exclusion are lacking. Like other social assistance benefits, the IMV is not specifically a tool for family support, but alleviating child poverty is among its important goals. As of March 2021, more than 40% of the 565 000 beneficiaries were minors (Gobierno de España, 2021[52]).

As was the case for the regional benefits, individuals can apply individually or for their family grouping and receive benefits that close the gap between their income and the guaranteed minimum income. Individuals who apply must have had legal and effective residence in Spain for at least a year (with exceptions for trafficking and gender-based violence victims) (Article 7.1 RD – Act 20/2020) and their income must be below the threshold set by the regulation (Article 1 and 2 RD – Act 20/2020). Individual applicants must be older than 23 and not entitled to old age or disability pensions, unmarried and not part of a de facto couple, and live alone or share their residence with a unidad de convivencia to which they do not belong (Article 4.1 RD – Act 20/2020; last version according to RD – Act 3/2021). If the applicants are younger than 30 years of age, they must also prove having lived independently in Spain for at least for three years immediately before applying for the benefit (Article 7.2 RD – Act 20/2020). Individuals can also apply on behalf of their unidad de conviviencia (that includes spouses, de facto partners, relatives and in-laws up to the second degree, and pre-adoptive or foster children) (Article 6.1 RD – Act 20/2020).29 The income of the individual or the group must be lower than the amount of the minimum guaranteed income as set by the regulation. Besides, the applicant’s assets, disregarding the family home, cannot exceed the limits set up by the regulation (Annex II of the RD-Act 20/2020). In an individual application, the annual minimum guaranteed income is EUR 5 639 for 2021. The maximum amount increases by 30% for every household member, up to a maximum of 220% (Article 10.2 and Annex I RD – Act 20/2020). For single-parent families, an additional increase of 22% is applied.

Individuals usually have to claim any other social allowance or benefit to which they are eligible before the IMV. The regional minimum income benefits, as well as some other extraordinary aid allowances, are disregarded when assessing the individual’s or group’s financial vulnerability (Article 18.1 e) RD-Act 20/2020). The reason is that the Spanish Government conceived the new benefit as a ‘floor’ guarantee. However, since any non-contributory social security benefit is generally considered as income in the calculations of regional minimum income benefits, many individuals will become ineligible for the benefits.30

The coverage of social assistance benefits in Spain was below the OECD average in 2018 and given the incomplete take-up of the IMV likely remains so at the time of writing. In Spain in 2018, an estimated one in ten individuals aged 15 to 64 who were at risk of poverty received social assistance (Figure 2.3), compared to one-fourth to one-third in the OECD on average (for parents living with a partner/childless people and single people respectively). In Spain, the rates were practically identical among single parents or parents living with a partner and childless people. The introduction of the IMV has likely increased coverage rates. However, as of March 2021, the benefit had been granted to approximately 203 000 households, far from the original objective of 850 000 households. According to a survey carried out in October and November 2020 among more than 900 families who were assisted by Caritas, a Catholic social services and advocacy organisation, more than half had not yet heard of the IMV and less than one-third had applied (Olías, 2020[53]).

Social security law organises the protection of the family against the risk of death of a primary breadwinner who is affiliated to social security through widowhood allowances, orphan’s pensions and contributory benefits for other needy relatives.

Surviving spouses are granted lifetime survivor’s pension if they meet the legal requirements (Article 216.1 B and 219.1 LGSS). The deceased person must have completed a minimum contribution period or died by accident; and if the death was caused by a disease unrelated to work that predated the marriage, the marriage must have lasted at least a year. If the marriage was shorter, the surviving partner is only eligible for a two-year subsidy. Separated or divorced partners can be eligible provided they received a compensatory allowance according to Article 97 of the Civil Code or any other periodic payment from the deceased. If the amount of the widowhood pension is higher than the compensatory allowance, the social security only pays the latter’s amount (Article 220.1 LGSS). When different persons are eligible to a widowhood pension for the same deceased person, each is entitled to receive a proportion of it according to the time spent with him or her, though the surviving spouse shall receive at least 40% of the pension.

Surviving partners of a de facto union may also be entitled to a social security pension provided they fulfil the requirements set out by Article 221.1 LGSS. The couple needs to have been in a stable marriage-like relationship for at least five uninterrupted years, needed to have lived together at the moment of death and need to have registered the union at regional or local registry or agreed to it through a public deed31 at least two years prior to the death of one of the partners. In contrast to widowhood pension, however, this allowance is means-tested. The applicant’s income cannot exceed 50% or 25% of the joint income in the year before the partner’s death, depending on whether the applicant is living with a child receiving orphan’s pension or not, unless the applicant’s income is less than 150% of the interprofessional minimum wage, increased by 50 percentage points for each entitled to orphan’s pension living with the applicant. The Constitutional Court endorsed all these requirements, pointing to the fact that only marriage but not the de facto union enjoys constitutional protection (Article 32 CE).

Biological and adoptive children as well as under certain circumstances stepchildren are entitled to orphan’s pensions. Stepchildren must be living with the deceased person at the time of death, their parent has to have been married to him or her a minimum of two years, and they shall not have the right to any social security claim, nor relatives who must support them according to family law rules (Article 9.3 RD 1647/1997). All children up to 20-one-years-old are eligible, as well as older orphans who are unable to work (Article 224.1 LGSS). Children under 20-five years of age can also apply provided that they earn less than the annual minimum interprofessional wage (Article 224.2 I LGSS). The orphan’s pension is subject to the same affiliation and contribution requirements as the widow’s pensions. However, since 2019 a non-contributory means-tested benefit is available to children who have lost their mother as a result of gender-based violence.32

Family members and relatives other than the spouse or children may also be granted contributory survival pensions. They include underage or disabled grandchildren or siblings; parents or grandparents. They must meet the corresponding requirements, among them proof that they financially depended on the deceased. Article 226.2 LGSS mentions a specific case: a child or a sibling, aged 45 or over, single, divorced or widowed, who lived with a retired or disabled pensioner and in his or her charge, and who ensured continuous care.

Social security law organises the protection of the family against the risk of death of a primary breadwinner who is affiliated to social security through widowhood allowances, orphan’s pensions and contributory benefits for other needy relatives.

Surviving spouses are granted lifetime survivor’s pension if they meet the legal requirements (Article 216.1 B and 219.1 LGSS). The deceased person must have completed a minimum contribution period or died by accident; and if the death was caused by a disease unrelated to work that predated the marriage, the marriage must have lasted at least a year. If the marriage was shorter, the surviving partner is only eligible for a two-year subsidy. Separated or divorced partners can be eligible provided they received a compensatory allowance according to Article 97 of the Civil Code or any other periodic payment from the deceased. If the amount of the widowhood pension is higher than the compensatory allowance, the social security only pays the latter’s amount (Article 220.1 LGSS). When different persons are eligible to a widowhood pension for the same deceased person, each is entitled to receive a proportion of it according to the time spent with him or her, though the surviving spouse shall receive at least 40% of the pension.

Surviving partners of a de facto union may also be entitled to a social security pension provided they fulfil the requirements set out by Article 221.1 LGSS. The couple needs to have been in a stable marriage-like relationship for at least five uninterrupted years, needed to have lived together at the moment of death and need to have registered the union at regional or local registry or agreed to it through a public deed33 at least two years prior to the death of one of the partners. In contrast to widowhood pension, however, this allowance is means-tested. The applicant’s income cannot exceed 50% or 25% of the joint income in the year before the partner’s death, depending on whether the applicant is living with a child receiving orphan’s pension or not, unless the applicant’s income is less than 150% of the interprofessional minimum wage, increased by 50 percentage points for each entitled to orphan’s pension living with the applicant. The Constitutional Court endorsed all these requirements, pointing to the fact that only marriage but not the de facto union enjoys constitutional protection (Article 32 CE).

Biological and adoptive children as well as under certain circumstances stepchildren are entitled to orphan’s pensions. Stepchildren must be living with the deceased person at the time of death, their parent has to have been married to him or her a minimum of two years, and they shall not have the right to any social security claim, nor relatives who must support them according to family law rules (Article 9.3 RD 1647/1997). All children up to 21 years old are eligible, as well as older orphans who are unable to work (Article 224.1 LGSS). Children under 25 years of age can also apply provided that they earn less than the annual minimum interprofessional wage (Article 224.2 I LGSS). The orphan’s pension is subject to the same affiliation and contribution requirements as the widow’s pensions. However, since 2019 a non-contributory means-tested benefit is available to children who have lost their mother as a result of gender-based violence.34

Family members and relatives other than the spouse or children may also be granted contributory survival pensions. They include underage or disabled grandchildren or siblings; parents or grandparents. They must meet the corresponding requirements, among them proof that they financially depended on the deceased. Article 226.2 LGSS mentions a specific case: a child or a sibling, aged 45 or over, single, divorced or widowed, who lived with a retired or disabled pensioner and in his or her charge, and who ensured continuous care.

In theory, child support payments should mitigate some of the lower earning opportunities that many single parents face. Child support obligations are not linked to having parental authority. When one of the parents does not live with their children, the support obligation consists of a regular money payment. To overcome arbitrariness, courts have developed tables that take into account the age and number of children, both parents’ economic capacity, the type of custody and other circumstances when setting the obligation. In 2013, the judges’ governing body even created an application to calculate child support (Consejo General del Poder Judicial, 2019[54]). Unlike legal support obligations towards other family members, which can be relieved when the debtor can no longer meet their or their family’s needs [Article 152.2 Civil Code, STS 19.1.2014 (RJ 2015/447)], economic grounds for relieving the parents’ obligations are almost non-existent. In practice, courts never discharge parents from their obligation, even if they are unemployed and cannot afford the maintenance. The Supreme Court has allowed the suspension the payments until the debtor’s finances improve only in exceptional circumstances.

In reality, non-custodial parents often breach their child support obligations, and the enforcement of support orders is frequently ineffective. There is no administrative agency in charge of supervising the smooth functioning of the child maintenance system. Data about the compliance with payment obligations are scarce and outdated. In 2000, only 12.4% of single parents received child support payments (OECD, n.d.[46]). This was the lowest share among 21 OECD countries in the same year, for whom the average was 47.3%. In Catalonia, according to data from the first (2008) wave of the Families and Childhood Panel, about four out of ten divorced and separated mothers either did not receive any resources from non-resident fathers or received them with delay (Marí-Klose et al., 2008[7]). The impossibility to seize the debtors’ resources, particularly when they work in the informal economy, worsens the economic vulnerability of former partners and their children. In some cases, parents that default on their obligations are subject to criminal persecution.

To address defaults on child support payments, limited public schemes to advance child support payments were established in 2007. Custodial parent of underage or disabled children can claim these advanced payments on behalf of their children. Among the preconditions are that the family income is below 150% of the IPREM in the case of families with one child – that is, below EUR 11 279 in 2020 – increasing by 25 percentage points for each additional child (Article 6 Royal Decree [RD] 1618/2007). Moreover, the applicant must have exhausted all procedural means to enforce their rights (Article 14.2 a) and b) RD 1618/2007). A criminal conviction of the debtor for not having paid child support is insufficient. Beneficiaries can receive advance payments equal to the monthly amount of child support as established by the court or to EUR 100 per child, whichever one is smaller,35 for up to 18 months (Article 9 RD 1618/2007). A similar fund in Catalonia (whose benefits are incompatible with the state-level one) is more generous in terms of the income threshold and maximum benefit, but at eight months, the maximum duration is shorter. When advanced payments are granted, the public authorities and the custodial parents usually simultaneously aim to collect the child benefit payments through compulsory administrative procedures (Article 24.1 RD 1618/2007) and family court proceedings, respectively. As courts increasingly grant shared physical custody, the traditional system based on one parent paying child support to the other is waning. Courts prefer alternative arrangements that match the new child custody system. When both parents have a similar economic position, the usual outcome is to sell the house instead of ordering that the spouse, typically the mother, lives in it with the children.

In addition to child support benefits, one of the divorcing partners may have to pay a compensatory allowance to the other to offset the worsening of their financial situation. The right to the compensatory allowance is established by considering, among other things, the age and health condition of the claimant, their professional qualifications and the likelihood of obtaining employment, as well as the duration of the marriage. The petitioner does not need to be destitute or lack funds to claim the allowance, nor does the law consider the fault of the spouses. The compensatory allowance may be reduced if either spouse’s circumstances change significantly (Article 100 CC), and are terminated if the ex-partner receiving it cohabitates with or marries someone else (Article 101 CC). The compensatory allowance was initially awarded in the form of monthly payments for an unlimited time, taking into account the economic means and needs of each former partner (Article 97 II, 8 CC); but since the 2005 reforms, it is possible that payments are awarded temporarily or in the form of a lump sum payment. A justification for the reform was that since divorce mostly affects younger spouses, whose marriage lasts between seven and ten years, it was reasonable that spouses resume their lives as self-sufficient individuals regardless of the standard of living they have enjoyed during the marriage. This fact may explain why only around 10% of divorce and legal separation procedures end by awarding a compensatory allowance to the former spouse (INE, 2020[55]). Some feminist groups however contend that the conditions to be granted the allowance are too strict, and that the reforms that made it easier to reduce or terminate the allowance worsened the position of the most vulnerable women (Gonzalo Valgaiin, 2006[56]). For de facto unions, the Supreme Court repeatedly states that courts cannot order compensatory allowances to former partners nor apply marital property rules.

The divorce reforms of 2005 reduced divorce procedures’ administrative and emotional costs, but also increased vulnerably. Thousands found it easier to divorce, and the costs of litigation fell dramatically. However, the transition to a unilateral divorce on demand was criticised for not having been accompanied by an array of measures to provide social support and assistance to children and lower-income partner involved in a divorce (Flaquer, 2012[57]).

Compared to non-contributory social allowances, tax benefits apply to a much larger section of society. Although various taxes and fees contain family-related tax benefits, deductions or exemptions, the focus here is on the personal income tax. Other taxes however often have similar requirements and concepts.

Tax law pursues two opposing goals. On the one hand, its primary function is to set up the legal framework for collecting taxes. On the other hand, it is one of the government’s most important tools to influence citizens’ action – in this case, to support the families and family members’ well-being (see Article 1 Act 58/2003, on general tax). In recent times, the second goal has taken increasing expression in tax policy; resulting in a multiplication of fiscal exceptions and incentives, including those aimed at the family’s support and protection. The legislature seeks to strike a balance between the constitutional principles of economic capacity and equality (Article 31 CE), and the social, legal and economic protection of family (Article 39 CE). More often than not, this goal provides ground to set up tax benefits for family units. The Constitutional Court has also stressed that tax law cannot penalise for being part of a (marriage-based) family (STC 45/1989).

One of the most controversial points of the current family tax model concerns recognising tax benefits and rights to the members of de facto unions under equal or at least similar conditions to married couples. By extension, it also raises the issue of the tax treatment of other family forms, starting with the single-parent family and following with other types of arrangements beyond marriage-like relationships.

According to the Constitutional Court, different tax treatment for non-married couples does not amount to discrimination prohibited by Article 14 CE because it is based on justified grounds. A clear legal concept of the de facto couple and a system for registering them are prerequisites to extend tax rules applicable to married couples to unmarried couples as well. Most regions have enacted regulations conferring rights and tax benefits to de facto couples based on their regional legislation on unmarried unions. The Basque Country and Navarra – the regions holding full legislative powers in tax law – have introduced a general equalisation of the de facto couples with marriages.36 The regions lacking these legislative powers have introduced partial amendments assigning rights and benefits to unmarried couples.37

For most families, the main tax advantage they enjoy is the tax exemption of the social or family benefits they are entitled to receive. Social security maternity and paternity benefits; non-contributory family benefits; child support and regional minimum income benefits are among the sources of income that are legally exempted from personal income tax (Article 7 of Act 35/2006, 28.11.2006, on Personal Income Tax and partial modification of the Acts on Corporation Tax, Non-Resident Income and Equity [LIRPF]).

Other advantages can derive from the option of filing taxes jointly as a family. Married couples used to be obliged to file a joint personal income statement (STC 209/1988 and 45/1989). Today, however, taxpayers can either opt for joint family taxation when they obtain tax savings, particularly if some family unit members earn no income (STC 146/1994), or file separately. One of the criticism of the joint filling system is that it can encourage one of the spouses to quit or reduce their economic activity. The definition of a family unit for the purposes of joint taxation are spouses who are not legally separated and who are either living with their minor children and/or have extended or rehabilitated parental authority over their incapacitated adult children. When the parents are legally separated or not married, the family unit refers to the father or mother and the children living with him or her (Article 81.1 LIRPF). Besides the potential tax savings flowing from the family joint taxation, a reduction of EUR 3 400 on the basic taxable income is applied to the spouses and EUR 2 150 to single parents.

The family unit’s legal definition for the purposes of family joint taxation prevents several family structures from the possibility of enjoying the tax savings and the legal reduction of their taxable personal income. For example, de facto couples who live with their joint children cannot access family joint taxation and are denied both reductions (Gómez de la Torre del Arco and López López, 2013[58]). Other family models that are excluded include childless, unmarried couples; units formed by grandparents and grandchildren (Durán-Sindreu Terol, 2020[59]) or foster parents or guardians and minor children under their custody.

Another key concept in family support is the 1998 introduction of the minimum personal and family income, meant to estimate the part of the taxpayers’ income used to satisfy basic needs that should therefore not be taxed (Article 56.1 LIRPF). The amount of the personal and family minimum results from the addition of the personal taxpayer’s minimum and the minimum for descendants, ascendants and disability. The taxpayer’s minimum is EUR 5 550 per year, increased to 6 700 for over-65 and 8 100 for over-75-year-olds (Article 57 LIRPF). The amount per child and year is EUR 2 400 for the first, 2 700 for the second, 4 000 for the third and 4 500 for the fourth and following (Article 58.1 LIRPF), though it in addition increases by 2 800 per year during the first three years of life or after adoption. Children must be younger than 25 years old or disabled regardless of age, live with the taxpayer and earn less than EUR 8 000. In cases of shared physical custody, the minimum is apportioned between the parents. The minimum for ascendants involves blood relatives (not in-laws) who live with the taxpayer, earn less than EUR 8 000 per year and are older than 65 (Article 59.1 LIRPF). The minimum’s amount is EUR 1 150 per year, rising to EUR 2 550 per year for over-75-year-olds (Article 59.2 LIRPF). The minimum for disability amounts to EUR 3 000 per year (for the disabled taxpayer with a disability above 33% or descendants or ascendants above 65%) but increases up to 9 000 per year if the disability’s degree is above 65%.

Some but not all family support payments can lower an individual’s taxable income. Taxpayers who do not live with their children but pay child support by court decision can apply either the minimum for descendant, or a reduction on the basic taxable income equal to the maintenance payments (Article 64 LIRPF). In practice, shared custody arrangements mean that parents are excluded from this reduction. In shared custody arrangements, since both parents live with their children, this prevents the one who is paying maintenance from opting for the reduction. Both parents must make use of the minimum for descendants only.38 However, a recently published court decision challenges this view held by authorities. It concludes that a parent paying child support while holding joint physical custody can apply the minimum for descendants and the deduction of the amounts paid as child support (STSJ Andalusia (Administrative Chamber) 1535/2020, 8.10.2020). The amounts paid as court-ordered or legally agreed-upon compensatory pensions to a separated or former spouse and the maintenance allowances paid to the separated spouse can be deducted from the debtor’s basic taxable income. For the person who receives the payments, in contrast, they are treated as personal income and taxed as salary. Other types of payments, such as payments for other family expenses (cargas familiars) (García Berro, 2008[60]), or other monetary benefits, such as allowing one former spouse temporary use of the former joint family home,39 cannot be deducted by the spouse who provides the benefits.After the breakup of de facto unions, payments are treated as capital losses for the payer and capital gains, or salary, for the recipient, depending on the allowance’s function.

The state as well as individual regions can offer deductions related to family policy measures. The payable tax is calculated by applying the corresponding rate to the taxable income. Deductions decrease the full share of the payable tax (cuota íntegra). The resulting amount is the liquid share of the payable tax (cuota líquida). Only the state has the right to establish deductions on the cuota líquida. Among the available state-level deductions from the ‘cuota íntegra’, none is connected to family policy measures. In contrast, the Autonomous Communities have established many deductions to the ‘cuota íntegra’ based on the taxpayer’s personal and family circumstances. Some deductions point to the older age of the taxpayer, widowhood or disability. Some regions also consider the disability of the spouse, de facto partner, ancestors or descendants. Many regions support the birth or adoption of a child, in different specific contexts (i.e. the number of children in the family, multiple childbirth or adoption, child’s disability or the taxpayer’s residence in a small village or rural area). Many regions apply deductions for maternity and paternity leave and provide support to single-parenthood and foster family care. Some of them also mention the care of older people within the family. Larger families may apply for specific deductions, sometimes combined with the deduction of a percentage of the rent paid for the family home. Disadvantaged families with children or persons with a disability also have access to deductions for rent expenses in some regions.

Many regional measures consist of the partial or total deduction of amounts paid for services linked to the care or education of children or other vulnerable household members. These may include the salaries and social security contributions paid to carers of younger children aged 0-4 years, disabled or dependent family members or older than 70-75 years; or kindergarten costs. Some of these measures are expressly named work-life balance expenses, while one region also deduces the spouse’s’ housework. Among expenses related to education, some regions focus on studying foreign languages abroad, whereas others support children’s university costs.

The resulting situation is that of a great variety of deductions directly or indirectly linked to family support. However, their amount is quite low and many are means-tested or have other eligibility requirements, pointing to a limited number of potential beneficiaries. Some Autonomous Communities provide protection to a large number of situations through tax benefits, whereas others focus on a reduced number of situations. However, in terms of tax benefits costs per inhabitant, the regions with more deductions actually spend less fiscal effort on family support measures than others (Náñez Alonso, 2018[61]).

As previously mentioned, only the central state can enact deductions in the cuota liquida. These deductions are special because in some cases, the law foresees refunds the taxes or contributions a taxpayer actually paid. In these cases, its legal nature is that of a social benefit for mothers or families (akin to a negative income tax), channelled through the personal income tax regulation (García Berro, 2015[62]). However, these deductions leave out the most vulnerable families, who earn no (reported) income (Diaz Calvarro, 2019[63]).

Tax payers who carry out a professional activity and are affiliated to social security or any other professional scheme may be eligible for the different family-related deductions. The maternity deduction is available to women with children under three years of age (Article 81.1 I LIRPF, as amended by Article 61 Act 6/2018, 3.7.2018). The father can apply this deduction in the event of the mother’s death, or when he has full custody. The large family deduction is available to parents or orphan brothers or sisters in a large family as defined by LPFN (Article 81 bis 1 c) LIRPF). The single-parent deduction is available to single or separated parents with two children provided they do not have a claim for child support (Article 81 bis 2 I LIRPF). The deduction for dependent persons with a disability applies to descendants or ascendants with a disability for whom the taxpayer can apply the minimum for descendants or ascendants and spouses not legally separated with a disability; who do not earn more than EUR 8 000 annually Article 81 bis 2 I LIRPF).

The amount of the deduction is adjusted to specific circumstances. The maximum amount of the maternity, large family and single parent deductions are EUR 1 200 per year; and for the deduction for dependent persons with a disability to EUR 1 200 for each dependent meeting the requirements. The maternity deduction may increase by up to an additional EUR 1 000 for proven expenses in kindergarten or early childhood education centres (Article 61.2 LIRPF); and the large family deduction can be up to EUR 2 400 higher for families in the special category, and increases by EUR 600 per child above the large family threshold. In general, the amount of the deduction is limited by the taxpayer’s contributions to social security in the corresponding tax period (Article 61.3 LIRPF); but for large families in the special category, the deduction can exceed this limit.

In Spain as elsewhere, most children before primary age are cared for by a mixture of their parents; informal carers such as grandparents, other relatives or friends; and formal care services.

Private and public providers offer formal the optional early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Spain both in the first cycle (for children under the age of three) and the second cycle (for children from three to six). Since 1990, early childhood education and care services are integrated within the education framework; and the General Organic Act of the Education System (LOGSE) included a basic regulation for nursery schools. The LOGSE was not endowed with the economic means necessary to respond to the families’ needs and it did not place any obligation on the regional administrations to engage in this development (González, 2004[64]). This changed in 2006, when the Organic Act 2/2006, 3.5.2006, on Education (LOE) replaced the LOGSE. Today, the responsibility for overseeing early childhood care and education institutions falls to the education departments of the Autonomous Communities. The Act asks Autonomous Communities to gradually increase the supply of public places in the first cycle, and encourages them to make agreements with local councils and private non-profit entities (Article 15.1 LOE). For the second cycle, in contrast, they have to guarantee a free spot (Article 15.2 LOE).

The availability and costs puts day-care for younger children out of reach or many families, but a recent law calls for the development of a plan to change this. The costs for the first cycle in public institutions can depend on factors such as family income and the number of siblings in the same institution. Private institutions are free to set their own fees. More than one half of the first-cycle institutions are private, though a third among them are publicly subsidised (Eurydice, 2021[65]). High privatisation rates exist particularly in large cities, making the services too expensive for many parents. Even if the situation has improved, a significant gap persists between the supply of public and private places in early childhood education and the actual and potential volume of users. Access to public kindergarten is subject to the specific requirements set out by the local authorities funding the service. Directives and recommendations on the conditions for access to the service exist in some regions, whereas others leave the issue to local authorities. The recent Organic Act 3/2020, 29.12.2020 amended Article 15 LOE to reinforce the obligation of public bodies to increase early childhood education services in order “to meet all applications for schooling of the children aged zero to three years”. The law also adds a new additional provision dealing with the extension of early childhood education, according to which “within a year from the entry into force of this Act, the government (…) shall set up an eight-year plan for the extension of the first cycle of early childhood education”. It also adds that the execution of the plan shall advance towards free admission of children, prioritising access for those in families at risk of poverty and social exclusion and focusing on low enrolment rate areas.

Parents are the exclusive carers for about half of the babies and toddlers under the age of three across EU countries. In Spain, this applies to only about a third of children in the same age group (Figure 2.4). In most European countries, the main care arrangement during the first 12 to 18 months is parental care, mainly provided by mothers, with emerging participation also by fathers. The parents tend to be more or less protected through the different national systems of leave for parents (Escobedo, 2014[66]). The share of children in Spain who are exclusively cared for by parents has decreased by around 5 percentage points since 2007. In 2019, about one in ten young children in Spain are cared for by informal carers, compared to almost one in three across the EU.

Spain has a relatively high coverage of formalised childcare. In 2017, parents who responded to the EU-SILC survey reported that 46.3% of children under the age of 3 were enrolled in formal childcare; compared to 38.3% across the OECD and 35.7% across the EU.40 This figure rose to 57.4% in 2019. As in many other but by no means all countries, the enrolment rates differ quite strongly across income group. In particular, the share of young children living in the third of households with the lowest income who attend a formal early childhood care and education programme in Spain but also across the OECD and EU was around 9 percentage points below the average enrolment (Figure 2.5). However, the Spanish gap was in fact not statistically significant at the 5% level. Differences between the two rates were lower in some of the countries with high enrolment rates, such as in Denmark and Luxembourg, but also in lower-enrolment countries such as Hungary. At 98%, almost all three to five year olds in Spain attend early childhood education, while the OECD average is 10 percentage points lower (OECD, 2020[68]). This proportion shows great variability across Autonomous Communities, as a result of the diverse regulations and public funding levels of these services.

The out-of-pocket costs parents have to come up with to place their children in day-care appear comparatively modest in Spain, but can nonetheless represent an obstacle for low-income families. In 2018, the typical cost for a single- or dual-parent family in Madrid that jointly earned 67% or 167% of the average national full-time wage was equal to 6.5%, compared to OECD averages of 8.5 and 14.6% for the two types of families, respectively (Figure 2.6). However, the lack of a distinction between the costs for families with these quite different income levels already shows that paying for childcare can be an obstacle for lower-income families. Survey data evidence bears this out: more than one in five low-income and more than one-in-six middle-income respondents with children aged five or younger in Spain said that they would like to use (more) formal childcare, but could not afford to do so (OECD, 2020[69]). Only in Ireland do a higher share of low-income parents report the same. Given that care for over-three year olds is free in Spain – though hours may not be sufficient to cover a full work day – the problem is likely even more acute for parents of younger children.

Formal after-school care in Spain is scarce. Younger school-age-children still require near-constant care, and school hours are often shorter than a typical work day. However, since the Autonomous Communities can set school hours and terms, there are important regional variations (Fernández-Enguita, 2007[70]; Feito-Alonso, 2012[71]; Sintes, 2012[72]). In some regions, public primary schools only operate until lunchtime. Private schools usually offer more academic hours and a package of complementary services and activities covering pre-hours, lunch and the afternoon with sports, languages, arts, play or other cultural activities. In public schools, parents’ boards or school families’ associations organise such activities according to their families’ funding and organisational capabilities (Comas et al., 2013[34]).Two-parent families may be able to adjust their working hours so that they can cover their children’s out-of-school care needs fully, while others may rely on grandparents or other family members or hire informal care workers. But for families who do not have nearby retired relatives and who do not have the financial means to hire someone, public after-school centres can help close the time gap between when school lets out and when they finish work. In Spain in 2017, according to an Indicator based on the EU-SILC, only 5% of children attended such centre-based care, considerably lower than the 28.6% OECD average and the lowest share among EU and OECD countries for which data were available. However, this low figure may miss certain other types of out-of-school care, including activities organised by families’ associations.

In Spain, there is a distinction between care services provided at school (lunch services, transport and residential support) and out-of-school services. On average, 35.6% of public and 45.7% of private-school primary pupils go to the school lunch service, which includes the meal and supervised free time. However, there are substantial variations across regions; and the difference in lunch service use between public and private school students become much larger in secondary school (MEC, 2021[73]). In some parts of the country, the regional authorities offer funding for out-of-school programmes, services and families school associations, These school families associations provide services that compensate for a lack of public services, particularly in well integrated communities and middle class neighbourhoods (Comas et al., 2013[34]). A Catalonian study from 2012 for example revealed that only 1% of public and 10% of private schools did not have a ‘Mothers and Fathers of the Students of the School centre association’ (AMPA). Participation by families was high: 81% were members in an AMPA and 68% participated in regular or occasional activities (though this drops to 27% in secondary school). In privately-managed school centres within the public system, which are often Catholic schools, participation is somewhat lower, which may be because the school offers more services itself. In primary public schools, the AMPA guarantees basic services including lunch service (in about half of public schools, while municipalities are in charge of others) as well as before and after-school care services ( (Escobedo and Escapa, 2014[74]), based on Fundació Bofill’s research-action project “Famílies amb Veu” (Comas et al., 2013[34])).

While most relevant public policies focus on creating formal early childhood education and care and out-of-school services, a recent policy initiative would help families supplement these formal with informal domestic services. These situations can for example arise if the hours offered for early childhood or out-of-school care do not coincide with their working hours. So far, they typically have to pay for these services out of their own pocket. But in March 2021, the government approved the Co-Responsibility Plan (Plan Corresponsables) in the framework on gender equality policies, to address some of the gaps in the present architecture of public care service policies in Spain. The plan has the dual goal of making domestic care services for families more accessible and of formalising informal care work. The plan intends to formalise informal domestic care services for families with children under the age of 14 as well as out-of-school services, sports and leisure services, in public facilities for children under the age of 14. Through the plan, the government also intends to improve quality job creation for young people with relevant qualifications such as in early childhood care or supervising sports and leisure activities, as well as for individuals with formal and informal care experience. Finally, the plan aims to create accreditation processes for non-professional care experience, in particular women over the age of 45 (Ministerio de Igualdad, 2021[75]). The plan’s budget of EUR 190 million in 2021 seeks to stimulate the allocation of other local, regional or private resources. In some instances, the plan reflects strategies proposed during the 1990s, including accreditation processes based on professional experience and public private partnerships, to stimulate the formalisation of labour-intensive domestic and care services (Jiménez et al., 2000[76]).The fact that the plan particularly addresses vulnerable families who cannot afford the full market price for these type of formal services also point towards the shortcomings of the 2006 Dependency Law in relation to families with children.

Through their primary and specialised social services systems, the Autonomous Communities provide services to families and for the protection of minors. Beside these specific family- and child-directed services, families of course benefit from a range of other social services. These for example include services directed at the elderly or disabled; and can include emergency financial transfers for households that are not eligible for regular monthly benefits but are in an acute crisis. In some regions, households that receive benefits under the minimum income scheme are also given preferential access to certain social services, but the extent of this practice is difficult to judge (Rodríguez-Cabrero et al., 2016[77]).

Recent developments point to a more therapeutic family law, with measures to prevent divorce or avoid its worst consequences for children (Fariña and Ortuño, 2020[78]). Family mediation was initially introduced in Spain in the 1990s, and the first family mediation law was published in 2001 in Catalonia.41 Despite its relatively short development, the interest on family mediation has considerably taken hold in recent years, resulting in the approval of family mediation laws in 13 Autonomous Communities (Unión de Asociaciones Familiares (UNAF), 2015[79]). Nowadays, many Autonomous Communities offer both family mediation both outside and inside the judicial system (Ortiz Pradillo, 2016[80]), and they have also started providing additional services such as meeting points for highly conflictive divorces, court orders naming a parenting co-ordinator for shared custody and even compulsory family therapy orders.

One of the key advantages of family mediation is that it is an effective communication mechanism which can help separating couples in finding lasting agreements that take into account the needs and well-being of all family members, and especially those of children. Furthermore, it can be a faster, simpler, and less expensive dispute resolution method than the traditional judicial system.

Despite these advantages, the uptake of family mediation services is still low in Spain. In 2015, about one-quarter of divorce filings in Spain were contended rather than by mutual accord. Of these around 23 000 cases, a judge referred the separating couple to mediation in around 6 000 cases, but in more than half of the cases there was not even a first information session (Lozano-Martín and González-de-Patto, 2018[81]). Reasons for the relatively limited recourse to mediation can include a lack of interest by judges, lawyers or separating couples, as well as difficulties in accessing the services.

Important advances have also been made with respect to the promotion of positive parenting programmes in the past decade. Since 2009, and as a response to the recommendation made by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe,42 the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare has put into place multiple initiatives to promote this new parenting approach among Spanish families and institutions. These initiatives include preparing technical documents and guidelines to support local governments in the development of services and programmes to promote positive parenting at the local level, holding national conferences, creating inter-autonomous working groups, and financing services and education projects to provide parenting support to families. An online platform43 was also created to contribute to raising awareness among the public in general, and to provide professionals with a space for learning and exchanging good practices on the topic.

As a result of these initiatives, local programmes developed to specifically address parents’ needs in bringing up children have undergone rapid expansion across the country. During the first years of development, Autonomous Communities set up positive parenting programmes aimed at supporting disadvantaged families to raise children in contexts of pervasive poverty and structural sociocultural exclusion. The intention of these programmes was to lower the need for child protective services to intervene. Nowadays, these services tend to provide parenting support to vulnerable families involving a continuum of low-risk to high-risk families. The focus has shifted towards increasing parenting skills and social support across the board to improve parents’ autonomous functioning (Rodrigo, 2016[82]).

The 2013 Social Services reference catalogue defines the services that individuals can access in the entire Spanish territory provided they fulfil access conditions (Ministerio de Sanidad, 2013[83]).With regards to families, these services are psychological, educational and social supports, which for example can include positive parenting programmes; family mediation in cases of separation or divorce; family meeting points for cases where the contact between a minor and a parent or other family member are difficult and need supervision to normalise again and social-educational support outside of school hours for children with specific educational difficulties. There are special phone lines for victims of gender-based violence and for minors. Women who are recognised victims of gender-based violence, either through a court order or a case-worker decision, can access psycho-social support from inter-disciplinary teams. Children at social or family risk can receive supports such as programmes for family preservation or support for victims of (sexual) abuse; and may be placed in residential or foster care. The Autonomous Communities also evaluate potential foster and adoptive families and accompany them before and after the adoption. Finally, the reference catalogue includes early childhood education and care services. Besides these family- and minor-specific services, families can of course also access all other social services their situation entitles them to, such as those related to social inclusion.

According to their social services catalogues, different regions offer different types of family services; but these catalogues can offer an incomplete picture. Social and therapeutic services are the most common family support services across the regions, with the exception of Extremadura and Galicia (Figure 2.7). Only five regions (Andalusia, Aragon, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y Léon and Murcia) specifically mention programmes against intra-familiar violence within their family support services. All regions with the exception of Asturias, Catalonia, and Galicia list mediation services that seek to prevent and resolve family conflicts without recourse to the justice system. In fact, the catalogues of Catalonia and Galicia generally do not mention family support services, though the Catalonian one mentions one programme and the region has a law on family mediation dating from 2001. However, in some cases, an Autonomous Community may offer a certain service without listing it under family services. In these cases, the services may fall under the ‘prevention’, ‘dependency’ or ‘personal autonomy’ category for specific target groups. In other cases, communities may offer services through a different part of the social protection system rather than through social services. For example, early childhood care may be offered by the education or health systems rather than through social services.

The increased demand for child protective services has prompted the enactment of regional legislation to organise these services. A 2015 state-level legal reform sought to set the essential elements for a more coherent child protection system at the national level (Act 26/2015, 28.7.2015, modifying the system for the protection of children and adolescents). The reform sought to introduce common criteria regarding the definition of risk situations and the more serious abuse or neglect cases. Only the latter lead to a separation of a child from his or her biological parents. The reform also amended the definition and procedural requirements to establish protective measures (residential or family care and pre-adoptive family care). It aimed at unifying the definitions and criteria used by the different regions, starting from the assumption that foster family care should be preferred to residential care. The Act even stated that children under the age of three had to be placed in family rather than residential care unless it was proven that this option was impossible. The same provision also stated that “as soon as possible”, the same criterion should also apply for children from 3 to 6 years old. The Act did not include mention of any programme or funding addressed to increase foster families’ availability. At the same regulatory level, the Act also furnished the sets of rights and duties of both family foster carers and foster children. It introduced new categories of foster family care, replacing those used by the regional regulations. Finally, the reform pointed to the standardisation of the legal definitions of foster family care and care for adoptive purposes, the unification of their legal regime, and the development of common criteria for having access to foster care services. The Act also ordered the implementation of a state-based information tool that should provide data about foster family care and adoption measures across Spain.

Until now, only a handful of regions seem to have completed the task of implementing the definitions and standards set by the state legislation.44 Instead, most of them have reacted by adopting specific rules for pressing matters, such as unaccompanied foreign children. Some complained that state legislation challenged their powers to enact and develop child protection policy and statutory tools to provide foster care services.45 The efforts of both the regions and the state to set common general criteria to access the services and develop the information tool have not reached success yet.

Programmes for at-risk youth are the most frequently mentioned across the social services catalogues of the different regions, followed by residential and foster care and pre- and post-adoption services (Figure 2.8). Hardly any regions mention youth centres within their social services catalogue, but these may still exist at a municipal level; or they may be seen as part of youth or leisure policies. Early childhood programmes, directed at children under the age of six are not mentioned in the catalogues of Andalusia, Extremadura, Galicia, and Murcia.

Data show that intimate partner violence is widespread. In 2004, a new comprehensive legal instrument established a broad range of support measures, ranging from individual counselling for victims to structural economic incentives for employers to hire former victims of intimate partner violence.46 It also increased potential sentences for men’s acts of gender-based violence against women and created special courts,47 responsible for dealing with all criminal issues connected with gender violence, but also with civil matters concerning family legal relationships that involve the victim and the alleged perpetrator (Article 87 ter 2 Organic Act 6/1985, 1.7.1985, on Judicial Power (as amended by Article 44 Organic Act 1/2004).). If a father is involved in gender-based or domestic violence, the judge must consider suspending his custodial rights (Article 65 Organic Act 1/2004). But this suspension is neither automatic nor mandatory and rarely applied in practice.

The services offered to the victims of gender-based violence fulfil the requirements set out by a European Convention in terms of their existence, though not always in terms of the actual spots that are available. The legally binding Istanbul Convention, which came into force in 2014, aims to tackle gender-based violence in Europe and ensure the protection and support of female victims as well as of their children. The Convention lays out general and specialist support services, assistance in complaints, shelters, 24-hour helplines, rape crisis or sexual violence centres and the protection of child witnesses as the minimum services countries have to provide (Meurens et al., 2020[84]). All of these services exist in Spain. However, as in most other countries, the prevalence of sexual violence referral centres and the availability of beds in shelters remain below the Convention’s targets.

Shelters can allow victims of intimate partner violence to be safe from their aggressors, receive counselling and line up housing and other necessities so that they do not have to return to their prior home. Some of these shelters are open to women with their children, some also to male victims of intimate partner violence, and some specialise in the specific needs of migrant women. All of the analysed countries offer shelters. However, the number of available spots may not always be sufficient; different parts of the country may have different availabilities; and the shelters may not always meet the needs of all victims. The Council of Europe minimum’s requirement is that there should be one family place (for one woman and one child) per 10 000 inhabitants. A 2019 report by Women Against Violence Europe NGO that used an amended version of the target of one shelter family place (for one woman and one child) per 10 000 inhabitants estimated that the actual number of beds fell 42% short of the target in 2018 (WAVE, 2019[85]). Of the analysed countries, only four (Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Northern Ireland) actually met the target.

Family leave policies allow the parent to suspend their work contract temporarily to take care of the children. In Spain, family leave policies generally fall under the competence of the state and include measures such as leave during pregnancy and after birth, leave for urgent family reasons such as taking care of sick children or relatives, and regulated working-time reductions for the same reasons. They typically apply to public and private-sector employees, but parallel measures have recently been set up to provide similar social security coverage to self-employed parents. Independent professionals who are not affiliated to social security schemes are usually part of specific arrangements with private insurers, allowing them to have access to monetary allowances during a break due to pregnancy, birth or childcare.

Before the birth or adoption of a child, parents-to-be may have the right to time off, leave or contract interruptions. Any prospective mother or father has the right to time off work for prenatal examinations or classes, or compulsory courses or tests during the process of becoming an adoptive or foster parent (Article 37.3, f) [Estatuto de los Trabajadores – ET] Worker Statute and 48 e) Basic Statute of Public Servants [Estatuto Básico del Empleado Público – EBEP]. The biological mother can also anticipate her maternity leave up to four weeks before the day of the likely birth (Article 48.4 VI ET).48 Pregnant or breastfeeding workers can suspend their work contract temporarily if her current working place exposes her to health risks and if a change to her work place is not feasible or cannot reasonably be required (Article 45, e) and 48.7 ET). The suspension may last until the child’s ninth month (Article 45.1 e) ET). Social security pays a subsidy equal to the sum established in the work contract for temporary disability caused by labour-related events.

After birth, parents have a right to maternity, paternity and parental leave. Maternity leave lasts 16 weeks, the first six of which have to be taken full-time (Article 48.4 I ET = 49 a) EBEP). Mothers can take the remaining leave at once or interrupted before the child’s first birthday, and on a part- or full-time basis; but only provided their employer agrees. Since 1 January 2021, the same rights – including the provision that the first six weeks must be taken on a full-time basis – are granted to the other parent (Article 48.5 I ET), though here as well, employer agreement is needed. These paid leave periods are individual rights and no longer transferable to the other parent (Article 48.4 V ET). The single-parent upbringing of the child does not imply the duplication of the individual claims of the only parent.49 Leave-taking parents affiliated to social security and who fulfil lenient contribution requirements50 (such as having contributed for 180 days out of the prior seven years for over-26-year-olds) receive a subsidy equivalent to the amount established in the work contract for temporary disability caused by non-labour related events. In general, the amount is near 100% of the worker’s usual salary. The calculations are based on the applicable basis of contribution, which varies among seven professional groups and which is updated at every year by the General State Budget Act. This Act also determines the minimum and maximum contributions to non-labour risks. Currently the maximum and minimum monthly amounts of the basis are EUR 4 070 and 1 050.

Several reforms have shaped the current maternity and paternity leave system. In 1989, maternity leave was extended from 12 to 16 weeks, and the option to transfer these four additional weeks to the father was introduced. In 1995, maternity leave was improved and detached from sick leave. The 2007 Gender Equality Law (Organic Law 3/2007) created a new social security paid paternity leave of initially two and later four weeks, combined with more flexible reversible working time reductions also extended to adult care contingencies. Learning from the experience of Nordic countries, the reform counted on the potential of leave policies to encourage the involvement of men in post-birth care. Finally, the most recent reform on birth leave created a fully gender neutral leave around birth.

The motivation for the birth leave reform was to promote the equal sharing of parenting and the de-gendering of the use of leaves. The practical aim seems to be to eliminate statistical gender discrimination in the labour market, by showing employers that male and female employees have the same leave entitlements and benefits at birth, and may thus be absent from the workplace for an equal duration due to family reasons. The reform focuses on the first months of parenthood, often a turning point at which gaps in male and female employment trajectories become wider, particularly in groups with lower education and more precarious labour conditions. Previous international research indicates that father’s paid leave allows men to develop primary care competences when they perform it alone and during a minimum period of time (O’Brien and Wall, 2017[86]; Meil, Rogero-García and Romero-Balsas, 2017[87]), while mother’s paid leave protects her employment provided it is long enough (Addati, Cassirer and Gilchris, 2014[88]; Escobedo, Navarro and Flaquer, 2008[89]). This is not clear in the Spanish case whether the leave is indeed long enough when taking into account the observed increase of maternal unemployment or labour market abandonment after the end of maternity leave (Escobedo, Navarro and Flaquer, 2007[90])

After the paternity and maternity leave, both parents may ask for one-hour time off work each day to care for the infant until he or she is nine months old (12 in the case of public employees) (Article 37.4 ET (as amended by Article 2.9 RD-L 6/2019) and Article 48, f) EBEP). The duration of the leave increases proportionally in cases of multiple births. Like maternity and paternity leave, infant care leave is an individual right that cannot be transferred between the two parents. To encourage parents to use this leave simultaneously, the leave is extended until the infant is one year old if both parents apply for leave with the same duration and regime. In this case, however, a reduction in the salary takes place in proportion to the reduction of working time. Through collective or individual agreements with the employer, the infant care leave may be compacted to take some days off work instead of a daily reduction of working time. The unpaid reduction of working hours by both parents for the time between the ninth and twelfth month of age of their child gives rise to a social security benefit equivalent to 100% of the amount established in the work contract for temporary disability caused by non-labour related events, calculated according to the reduction of working time (Article 185.1 LGSS).

Parents of children who are one year or older can take different types of leave:

  • Parents can take an unpaid leave of absence for up to three years after birth or the judicial order granting the adoption or foster care of the child (Article 46.3 I ET). Parents who take this leave keep their seniority and may attend professional training courses. Their employer must let them return to the same workplace if they leave for one year or less (extended to 15 or 18 months for parents of large families) or to an equivalent workplace if the leave lasts longer than that. Social security law considers this period as if the worker had been working as regards contribution requirements for benefit calculations (Article 237.1 LGSS), but does not pay an allowance to the leave-taking parents.

  • For the care of children under the age of 12 or persons with disability who do not carry out paid work, workers can reduce their working hours by up to half. For up to two years, social security treats these periods as if the worker had not reduced their working time for the calculation of retirement, survivor and permanent incapacity pension schemes and parental leave (Article 237.3 LGSS).

  • Parents of children suffering severe illnesses can reduce their working hours by 50 to 100% (Article 190 II and III LGSS). In this case, parents working in the private sector can receive a social security allowance equivalent to 100% of the amount established in the work contract for temporary disability caused by labour-related events, calculated according to the effective reduction of working time. Civil servants, in turn, receive their full salary (Article 49 e) EBEP). The benefit is paid until the children are no longer in need of hospitalisation or treatment, or when they still need them but are 18 years-old. If both parents meet the requirements for the benefit, it is only granted to one of them.

    It is controversial whether the allowance should be available when only one of the parents is working and affiliated to social security (Blasco Lahoz and López Gandía, 2020[44]). According to Article 4.2 RD 1148/2011, both parents must be affiliated and registered in one of the social security schemes. The Supreme Court held that if one of the parents does not work, the other does not need to reduce his or her working time. The issue also arose in cases concerning divorced spouses, where one of the parents was the only custodial parent. The Supreme Court rejected granting the allowance based on the fact that the legal link of the child with the other parent is alive, and this must have consequences regarding their parental duties.51 Legal writing critically argues that it does not make sense that a custodial parent cannot ask for leave without losing part of their income if the other divorced parent is not working and has no or minimal contact with the sick child (Gala Durán, 2018[91]). Leave to take care of children with non-severe illnesses remains unregulated, even though an exception has been made during the COVID-19 crisis for parents whose children have had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or needed to quarantine. Within the framework of the State Government “Plan Me Cuida”, parents whose children have had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, have had the option of paid sick leave for 10-14 days (under sickness insurance) while parents whose children needed quarantine without COVID-19 diagnosis were granted unpaid leave or flexible or telework or homework arrangements with the employer.

In Spain, maternity and paternity leaves themselves are relatively generous, but the lack of further paid parental leave lowers the relative generosity. While maternity leave is slightly more than two weeks shorter than the OECD average and six weeks shorter than the EU-28 average (based on 2018 information), its payment rate at 100% for an average earner is very generous (Figure 2.9). However, on top of maternity and paternity leave, many other OECD countries also offer parental leave that can usually be taken by either fathers or mothers. This leave is often of a longer duration but a lower payment rate. When this leave is taken into account, the gap in the duration between maternity and home care leave in Spain and the OECD average grows to nearly 38 weeks. The recent extension of paternity leave to 16 weeks places Spain far above the 2018 OECD average of eight weeks of the combined paternity and parental leave reserved for fathers. The shorter duration of total parental leave in Spain compared to the OECD average can represent a challenge for families who may struggle to assure good-quality care for their babies. This is particularly true given that in the recent extension of the birth leave for fathers, six of the 16 weeks have to be taken at birth together with the mother (thus not extending the period that the child can be at home with parents on paid protected leave); and the use plan for the ten remaining weeks has to be agreed with the fathers’ and mothers’ employment (Meil, Escobedo and Lapuerta, 2021[28]). However, it also needs to be noted that very long parental leave entitlements have been found to be associated not only with decreased employment opportunities for mothers, but for women of childbearing age in general (Adema, Clarke and Frey, 2015[92]; Thévenon and Solaz, 2013[93]).

The coverage of maternity leave is high, while many men did not use any days of their previously shorter paternity leave. In 2018, according to results of the INE’s Fertility Survey, 82.5% of eligible first-time and 84.9% of second-time mothers took the leave; compared to 74% of eligible men (Meil, Escobedo and Lapuerta, 2021[28]; Meil, Rogero-García and Romero-Balsas, 2020[94]). Reasons for why a proportion of mothers are not using maternity leave include that they work in informal or precarious employment, are self-employed or have some other professional reason (Meil, Rogero-García and Romero-Balsas, 2020[94]). In 2016, the ratio of the number of beneficiaries of paternity leave to the number of live birth was 59.8, up from 35.3 in 2007 (OECD, n.d.[46]). This ratio is slightly higher than the average across 11 OECD countries for which the statistic was available. The increase of leave from two to four weeks in 2017 did not result in a reduced usage rate, although it did increase the proportion of fathers who did not use the whole leave period to which they were legally entitled. In fact, the percentage of fathers who took leave out of all births rose from 59.8% in 2016 to 68.8% in 2018 (Meil et al., 2022[95]). Coverage may even have grown to 85% from 2017 onwards (Flaquer and Escobedo, 2020[96]), though changes in how statistics are generated created discontinuities and difficulties in understanding fathers’ leave patterns.52 Evidence from the 2021 Young Spanish Family Survey suggests that half of the men who became fathers in 2020 split their leave into several spells, up from 38% in 2019. The prevalence of part-time leave-taking rose from 16 to 22% ( (Meil, Escobedo and Lapuerta, 2021[28]) based on (Meil et al., 2021[97])).

Parental leave remains unpaid and thus non-affordable for most employees, particularly those on fixed-term contracts, who make up a substantial proportion of the labour force in the younger age groups. In 2019, fewer than 5% of children under the age of three had a parent who took this unpaid leave. Among those that do use the right, the overwhelming majority (90.9%) are women, who on average earn less than their partners (Guerrero Vizuete, 2018[98]). Men who take parental leave usually have a stable job, often in the public sector, and have above-average educational attainments (Flaquer and Escobedo, 2020[96])

Workers also have the right to request adaptations in the organisation of their working time, including remote work (Article 34.8 ET). The requested adaptations must be necessary for their work-family life reconciliation and must be reasonable and proportionate. Initially, the law merely mentioned that collective or individual agreements should be encouraged to set up work-life balance measures such as continuous working hours or flexible timetables. However, evidence suggests that collective agreements seldom refer to these arrangements (Barrios Baudor, 2019[99]). In the absence of collective agreement, employers could refuse workers’ requests without further justification,53 and the goals thus had little enforcement power behind them. Amendments in the legal framework of reconciliation measures of work and family life in 2019 sought to improve the practical effect of workers’ rights. Collective bargaining is still supposed to determine the scope of work-life balance measures. However, when there are no relevant collective provisions, each worker now has the right to request negotiation process with the employer to set up the flexible working arrangements he or she needs. When employers refuse the requests, they must provide objective reasons related to organisational or production needs (Article 34.8 ET).54 When controversies persist, workers can turn to social courts under a special procedure. Courts place the burden on the petitioners to substantiate their need for reconciliation measures, particularly by pointing to the other parent’s availability or other circumstances of the family.55 The temporary plan MECUIDA for worktime adjustment during the pandemic has been prolonged several times since March 2020. According to the plan, employees have had the right to adapt or reduce their working hours after giving 24 hour notice to their employers if they need to care for children who for example have to go into quarantine or for other family members who fell ill with COVID-19.

In practice, worktime flexibility is often still limited. According to the 2015 6th European Working Conditions Survey, fewer than one-quarter of Spanish employees had some or total control over daily working hours, compared to a European average of around a third. Differences between mothers, fathers and childless individuals were minimal (OECD, 2016[100]). Along with many other important factors, a lack of flexibility in setting daily working hours can contribute to difficulties in reconciling work and family life. In Spain in 2012, fewer than one-third of employed parents whose youngest child had not reached school age yet reported no or little difficulty in combining their work and family roles, compared to an average across 25 OECD countries of 42% (OECD, 2016[101]).

While housing policy is not a direct field of family policy, the availability of housing has an outsized impact on the rate of household and family formation and on the well-being of families. Moreover, certain provisions in housing policy target the needs of large families in particular.

The basic regulatory framework in the field of housing builds on the successive three-year housing plans, which have undergone a shift from promoting home ownership to facilitating renting. The State approves and finances these plans and the Autonomous Communities execute them by managing the corresponding aids and benefits after signing an agreement with the State. Since the first plan (1981-83), plans traditionally focused on stimulating the building of new houses and subsidizing their ownership. Large families in particular have priority in the award of housing and have more favourable financing conditions (Palomar Olmeda and Terol Gómez, 2017[27]). In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, it was concluded that the incentives for home buying had contributed to price increases and to an extraordinary surplus of empty houses. At the same time, thousands of people were evicted from their homes due to non-payment of their mortgage. As a direct result, the state housing plans began focusing on the promotion of renting rather than buying. This is equally the approach of the current plan for the period 2018-21 (Approved by RD 106/2018, 9.3.2018 (BOE no 61, 10.3.2018)).

To benefit from the aid under the housing plan, the beneficiaries must fulfil a number of general criteria not tied to family status, but may receive preferential help if their family is large or if they are single parents. As general requirement, the plan demands that beneficiaries possess Spanish nationality or have legal residence in Spain. Aid eligibility hinges not only their individual declared income, but on the income of all persons living in the same household. The regulation considers the “unidad de convivencia” as the “group of people who live and enjoy a home regularly and permanently and with a vocation for stability, regardless of the relationship between all of them” (See Article 7.2 b) RD 106/2018). Therefore, the notion of “family unit” based on blood or legal ties does not appear to apply. However, the same regulations refer to “preferred sectors” to which the aids and subsidies must be directed, including large or single-parent families; families who have lost their habitual residence after a foreclosure; households with victims of gender violence or with a disabled member, and other economically vulnerable units. The requirement of residence in the home is proven by the certificate of registration. Children whose parents have joint physical custody can only be registered with one parent. When the children are not registered with the applicant of the subsidy, he or she must provide official proof of the judicial decision ordering the shared custody arrangement so that the children can also be deemed part of his or her unit.56

The state housing plan is structured across nine programmes, including direct aid for the acquisition of protected housing and for rent. The programme for home acquisition only applies to benefits already granted under previous plans. The second programme subsidises rent payments (Article 10 RD 106/2018). The maximum income available to the household unit must be equal to or less than three times the IPREM.57 To calculate the maximum income limit, the first adult person counts 1.5 times the IPREM and each additional person 0.5 times the IPREM. In the case of large families of the special or of the general category or of people with disabilities, the multiplying factors are 0.6 and 0.75 for each additional individual, respectively. In any case, it should be noted that the regions normally set up a minimum income amount as an eligibility requirement in order to avoid that due to lack of sufficient income tenants cannot pay the rent. The rent must be equal to or less than EUR 600 per month, or EUR 900 in the case of large families. Autonomous Communities and the ministry can alter this maximum through an agreement in the event of updated studies on the supply of rental housing that prove such need. The amount of the aid varies according to the circumstances of the tenants, as determined by the regional regulations dealing with the specific programme. As a general rule, beneficiaries are to be granted an aid of up to 40% of the monthly rent, which may increase by 10 percentage points for beneficiaries over the age of 65 (Article 14 RD 106/2018). The aid is granted for a period of three years (Article 16). A specific programme of direct monetary benefits for rent payments targets young people under 30-five years of age. This programme has the same income requirements, rent limits and duration and scope of the benefit do apply.

The number of individuals who benefit from a housing allowance is relatively low compared to other OECD countries; and social rental housing plays a negligible role. In 2017, only 3.5% of households in the lowest income quintile received the allowance, while in many other countries their share lies above 10%, in some cases drastically so (Figure 2.10). At slightly above 1%, the share of social rental housing in the total housing stock is also very low in Spain compared to other OECD countries. In fact, only four other countries for which data are available have a lower share; and the median is nearly four times bigger (OECD, 2021[102]).

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the policy was changed in several ways. An existing programme aimed at the population affected by evictions or foreclosures has been replaced by a new programme to help victims of gender violence, people who are evicted from their habitual residence, the homeless and other especially vulnerable groups (Order TMA/336/2020, 9.4.2020). For these beneficiaries, aids may reach up to 100% of rent (with the same maximum amounts as set in the general programme). In addition, beneficiaries may receive up to EUR 200 euros per month to meet maintenance, community and basic supplies expenses. These aids can be granted for a maximum period of five years. Another programme grants support to tenants who temporarily could not pay all or part of their rent and who could demonstrate to have fallen into a situation of economic and social vulnerability as a consequence of the economic and social impacts of COVID-19. The regions had to implement the programme and determine the financial and social requirements. Still, they need to respect state basic rules laid down in RD-Act 11/2020, which required the applicant to be unemployed with a substantial loss of income; to have an income below three times the monthly IPREM (increasing by 0.1 times the IPREM for each child or for each family member over 65 years of age in charge of the family unit, or 0.15 times the IPREM for each child in the case of a single parent family unit);58 and to have rental costs that were greater than or equal to 35% of the net income of the whole family unit. Unlike other programmes, this programme thus does refer to the ‘family unit’ defined as the one made up of the tenant, his or her (non-separated) spouse or the registered partner, and their children, regardless of their age, as well as their spouses, who live in the same household. The benefit may consist of 100% of the rent up to a maximum amount of EUR 900 per month. It could be granted for a period of up to 6 months. The entry into force of this programme in May 2020 gave rise to an avalanche of applications. In few days the credit available to the Autonomous Communities to allocate these aids were exhausted.59

Spain spends comparatively little on targeted family benefits and services. In 2017, family transfers and in-kind benefits in Spain amounted to 1.2% of its GDP compared to an OECD average of 2.1% and an EU average of 2.3%. Within this spending, Spain favours in-kind over cash benefits: 57% of its family-focused spending is dedicated to in-kind benefits and services, compared to 45% across the OECD. Tax breaks for families account for a further 0.12% of GDP in Spain, compared to OECD and EU averages of 0.23 and 0.29% (OECD, n.d.[46]). As a share of their respective year’s GDP, the 2005 and 2017 family benefit budgets were identical. Prior to 2005, there had been a noticeable increase, from 0.3% in 1990 to 0.9% in 2000.

Spanish overall social spending is in contrast not lower than is the norm across the OECD. In 2017, Spain devoted 2.9% of its GDP to family, housing and unemployment benefits. This share is comparable to the OECD cross-country average of 3.0%. As in many other, in particular European, OECD countries, spending on unemployment benefits far overshadowed spending on housing benefits: Spain spent nearly 16 times more on the former than the latter, while the ratio across the OECD was below two.

The interplay between taxes and in-kind and tax benefits influences how much financial sense it makes for people to work and how post-transfer income is distributed across the population. A full review of the behavioural and distributional impact of Spain’s family policy package is beyond the scope of the current report. Nonetheless, several pieces of evidence point to comparatively small disincentives for both parents in two-parent households to be employed, but also to a relatively modest redistributive capacity of the tax and benefits system.

The tax system does not disincentive working as much as elsewhere. When a single parent with children aged two and three who previously received minimum income benefits starts a job at the country’s average full-time wage and sends his or her children to full-time childcare, the implicit tax rate of lost benefits and increased net childcare costs only amount to 5% in Madrid (Figure 2.12, Panel A). This is the lowest participation tax rate for OECD countries and compares very favourably to the 22% OECD and the 24% EU-28 average. If the job only pays two-thirds of the average wage, the participation tax rate is even negative, meaning that the parent would increase his or her income by more than the job’s salary. When one parent of a two-parent family where the other partner earns 67% of the average wage takes up employment at the average earnings, the increase in tax payments and childcare costs and the reductions in benefits amounted to 20% in Spain, compared to 27-29% across the OECD and EU (Figure 2.12, Panel B). In some countries such as Belgium and Iceland, the participation tax rate can even get close 50% even at these below-average or average earnings rates. That being said, the calculations assume that the two-year old child can attend a public childcare institution; otherwise the participation tax will likely be higher.

When looking at the poverty-reducing impact of social transfers alone, the impact on childhood poverty is relatively limited. A comparison of the share of children and teenagers who are at risk of poverty before and after social transfers reveals that in Spain, benefits only reduce the poverty rate slightly. In 2019, the childhood poverty rate after transfers was only 7.4 percentage points lower than before transfers, implying a 21% reduction (Figure 2.13). This is noticeably lower than the 45% average reduction across the EU-27. The limited poverty reduction is a result of the Spanish welfare system being primarily aimed at addressing the loss of income due to old age, disability and unemployment rather than fighting the consequences of labour market segmentation and of in-work poverty (Cabrero et al., 2019[105]).

When looking at overall rather than only childhood poverty rates and the overall effect of both taxes and benefits, the poverty-reducing impact is larger. Poverty rates before taxes and transfers in Spain are, at 34% in 2019, second highest amongst OECD countries (average of 27%), just after France (Figure 2.14). Thanks to taxes and social transfers, the poverty rate significantly reduces in most countries, including in Spain. In 2019, 14.2% of the Spanish population lived in relative poverty after taking into account taxes and transfers, compared with 11.5% of the population on average in the OECD. However, Spain remains in the upper third of OECD countries with the highest relative poverty rates.


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← 1. Real Decreto Ley de Protección a las familias numerosas de funcionarios públicos y de la clase obrera (21.6.1926).

← 2. Act of protection of large families (1.9.1941). The importance conferred to the protection of large families is revealed in Artice 22 of the Franco’s regime basic law Fuero de los españoles (17.7.1945).

← 3. The Law on the Protection of Large Families is developed by the Regulation for the Protection of Large Families approved by RD 1621/2005, 30.12.2005.

← 4. Until 1975, married women did not have full legal capacity and needed their husbands’ authorisation to enter into work contract or to buy or sale real estate, among many other legal acts. In 1975, most of the existing restrictions to married women’s legal capacity were abolished (Act 14/1975, of 2 May, amending the Civil Code and the Commercial Code regarding the legal condition of married women and their spousal duties (BOE n 107, 5.5.1975)).

← 5. See Article 16.3 Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”); 23.1 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 (“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”); and Article 16 European Social Chartr 1961 (“Article 16 – The right of the family to social, legal and economic protection – With a view to ensuring the necessary conditions for the full development of the family, which is a fundamental unit of society, the Contracting Parties undertake to promote the economic, legal and social protection of family life by such means as social and family benefits, fiscal arrangements, provision of family housing, benefits for the newly married, and other appropriate means”)

← 6. Accordingly, the protection of the family laid down in Article 39.1 CE “can be satisfied with the existence of family benefits and allowances and does not necessarily require that certain income is exempt from taxation”. See also ATC 289/1999, 30.11.1999. STS 6.5.2010 (RJ 2010 \ 3 595) used this reasoning to expressly rule out that the failure to provide a specific tax benefit for large families in the rate levied on the water supply service harms the right to equality guaranteed in Article 14 CE or the guiding principle for the protection of the family set forth in Article 39 CE.

← 7. The Constitutional Court pointed out that “the system of income accumulation, insofar as it increased the tax burden of the family, discouraged… work outside the home of the recipient of the second income who is typically the wife (…) from this point of view, then, [the original income tax regime of 1978] is difficult to reconcile with Article 39.1 CE in connection with Article 32 CE, in the sense that it requires, in the first place, the neutrality of the tax system with respect to the reciprocal situation of the spouses”.

← 8. Before the entry into force of the CE, Spanish family law was deeply rooted in the protection of marriage and discrimination against unmarried women and children. Affiliation of children born out of wedlock could be declared against the will of the father or the mother only under very rigorous requirements that made it almost impossible (Article 135 CC). Means of proof of biological truth were ruled out: Article 108 CC stated, for instance, that no contestation of the paternity of the husband was allowed except if based upon his physical impossibility for sexual intercourse during the 180 days prior to the birth of the child. The legal effects of affiliation of so-called “natural” children (Article 134 CC) and of illegitimate children (Article 140 CC) were very different from those of children born of a married couple. On the reform of the Civil Code, see Acts 11/1981 of 13 May, which modifies the Civil Code regime regarding filiation, parenthood and matrimonial property regime and 30/1981 of 7 July, reforming the Civil Code regulation of marriage (BOE no. 172, 20.7.1981). According to the new wording of Article 108 CC, «affiliation may be by nature and by adoption. Natural affiliation may be marital and non-marital. Affiliation is marital when the father and mother are married to each other. Marital and non-marital affiliation and adoption have the same effect, in accordance with the provisions of this Code».

← 9. STC 19/2012, 15.2.2012 added that the constitutionally protected family “has nothing to do with the physical fact of cohabitation between its members”, and concluded that Article 39.1 CE was violated for excluding the parent who does not live with his descendants but who has the legal obligation to provide them assistance of any order from applying the reduction of minimum family income available to the members of intact families.

← 10. This was one of the star measures of the Equality Law (Organic Act 3/2007, 22.3.2007, for the effective equality of women and men).

← 11. Additional Provision 13th, Act 40/2007, 4.12.2007, on Social Security measures. In addition, family members reaching the age of majority and who have been in guardianship, permanent foster family care or pre-adoption foster family care «shall keep the status as children [of the family]». Finally, three or more orphaned siblings over 18 years of age, or two if one of them is a person with a disability, who live together and depend financially on each other, also have the status of a large family.

← 12. Before 2003, case law considered that the parent who did not live with their children could not enjoy the status of large family irrespective of their paying child support. STSJ Andalusia, Granada (Administrative Chamber, Section 1) 532/2002,1.7.2002 (JUR\2002\242662) and Castile-La Mancha (Administrative Chamber, Section 1) 241/2004, 14.7.2004 (JUR\2004\196571).

← 13. The threshold in this case is 75% of minimum interprofessional salary (see Article 4.2). LPFN

← 14. Article 6 LPFN provides that the title must be renewed or terminated when the number of family unit members changes, or when the conditions that gave rise to it change, which entails a change in category or even the loss of the status of a large family. However, the Final Provision 5.2 of Act 26/2015, 28.7.2015 added a second paragraph to Article 6 to the effect that the title was to remain in force as long as at least one of the family’s children meets the conditions set forth in Article 3 LPFN. The Supreme Court held that not only the title but also the category remains intact. The family members who still meet the conditions enjoy the original status and category until they reach the limit, and the title ceases to apply.

← 15. The Basque country, in addition to a Framework Act and the development of its provisions through specific regulations, has set up four successive strategic plans and has carried out assessments of these plans. See Gobierno Vasco, IV Plan interinstitucional de apoyo a las familias de la Comunidad Autónoma de Euskadi para el periodo 2018-22. Invertir en las familias, invertir en la infancia.

← 16. For instance, see Article 6 Act (Castile-La Manche) 17/2010, 29.12.2010, on large families and maternity of Castile-La Manche. Navarre amended the Foral Act 20/2003, 25.3.2003, on large families of Navarre, to adapt it to the LPFN. See Foral Act 6/2005, 18.5.2005.

← 17. Catalan law also adds that “when the parents do not live together, each of them can request the issuance of the title [of large family], provided they fulfil the obligations inherent to parental responsibilities”. According to basic state law, however, only one parent can request the title in case of legal separation or divorce. In the absence of an agreement, the law gives preference to the parent living with the children.

← 18. For instance, see Additional Provision, D (Cantabria) 26/2019, 14.3.2019 and Article 7.7 Act (Balearic Islands) 8/2018, 31.7.2018, on the support of families.

← 19. Article 4.5 D (Catalonia) 151/2009, 29.9.2009; Article and 7.5 Act (Balearic Islands) 8/2018, 31.7.2018; Article 5 a) Order (Aragon) of the Department of Citizenship and Social Rights 384/2019, 4.4.2019 (which also includes «maintaining an affective relationship analogous to marriage»). Article 5 D (Cantabria) 26/2019, 14.3.2019.

← 20. Article 4.2 f) D (Catalonia) 151/2009, 29.9.2009. References to personal situations are usually to a degree of severe dependency, absolute permanent disability or severe disability. In addition, income thresholds are established to obtain the status of a single-parent family (Article 2.2 c) and d) D (Valencian Community) 19/2018, 9.3.2018; Article 3.2 c) and d) Foral Act (Navarre) 5/2019, 7.2.2019).

← 21. See Article 7.6 Act (Balearic Islands) 8/2018, 31.7.2018; Article 4.1 D (Valencian Community) 19/2018, 9.3.2018. With slight variations see regulations from Cantabria, Navarre and Aragon.

← 22. Article 13.4 D (Catalonia) 151/2009, 29.9.2009; Article 21 D (Valencian Community) 19/2018, 9.3.2018; Additional Provision 4 Act (Balearic Islands) 8/2018, 31.7.2018; Article 30 Foral Act (Navarre) 5/2019, 7.2.2019; Article 13 D (Cantabria) 26/2019, 14.3.2019; Article 16 Order (Aragon) of the Department of Citizenship and Social Rights 384/2019, 4.4.2019.

← 23. The child over 18 years-old is the beneficiary of the allowance, provided that they is not judicially incapacitated (Article 235.2 c) LGSS). Besides, the childcare allowance is incompatible with non-contributory pensions awarded to persons with a disability (Article 361.3 LGSS).

← 24. The pension supplement is not available for mothers who have anticipated their age of retirement or retired partially See Article 60.4 LGSS. ATC 114/2018, 16.10.2018 rejected that such a limitation could be unconstitutional on the grounds of discrimination against the mothers who retired earlier. The Constitutional Court argued that the basis of the maternity supplement provision was not only the ‘demographic contribution’ of mothers but also offsetting detriments suffered by those who had a shorter working career due to structural difficulties of reconciling paid work with childcaring.

← 25. ECJ (First Chamber) 12 December 2019, Case C-450/18, WA v Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social (INSS) at § 65.

← 26. According to FEFN, their pension supplement represents an average increase of about EUR 60 per month, although in the case of large families the average would be EUR 100 per month. See Press release FEFN 07.05.2020 https://www.familiasnumerosas.org/noticias/notas-de-prensa/reclamaste-el-complemento-de-paternidad-en-las-pensiones-y-te-lo-han-denegado-puedes-volver-a-rec/. Some courts have decided for the claimants against the refusal of the INSS. See STSJ Canarias (Social Chamber) 44/2020, 20.01.2020.

← 27. STS (Social Chamber) 5.12.2008 (RJ\2 009\251) and STSJ Canary Islands, Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Social Chamber, Section 1) 363/2017, 27.4.2017 (AS\2017\1511) (grandchild not under foster care). STSJ Catalonia (Social Chamber, Section 1) 5872/2018, 8.11.2018 (AS\2019\232) (aged mother living with applicant not to be included in «family responsibilities»). But see Social Court of First Instance Terrassa 23.10.2014 (AS\2015\632) contending that a flexible construction of the requirement was needed according to constitutional values. See also STSJ Valencian Community (Social Chamber) 2881/2000, 7.6.2000 (JUR\2001\1595) (orphan underage sister living with the applicant; arguing for an exception based on constitutional values and the fact that siblings legally owe maintenance to each other).

← 28. Some regions grant the benefit even when the salary is higher if the job is likely to be temporary. For instance, Article 4.6 Decree (Catalonia) 55/2020, 28.4.2020, approving the regulations on citizenship guaranteed income of Catalonia, enhances this compatibility with regard to single-parent and large families.

← 29. The legal definition of unidad de convivencia also applies to persons sharing a domicile but who are not bound by these family bonds. In this case, the persons must be older than 23 years, and at least one must have a disability over 65% or be over 65 years of age without being eligible for disability or old age contributory or non-contributory social security pensions (Article 6.2 c) RD – Act 20/2020).

← 30. But see the decision taken by the Catalan Parliament on 7.8.2020 not to validate the Decree-Act 28/2020, 21.7.2020, which attempted to amend Act 14/2017, on citizenship guaranteed income of Catalonia. It seems thus possible to receive the full amount of both the regional minimum income benefit and the minimum life income benefit.

← 31. Case law is very strict in construing this requirement, and rejects other documental evidences of the life in common of de facto partners. The high number of claims is evidence that formal requirements entail a considerable hurdle for surviving partners to obtain widowhood allowances.

← 32. See Article 1.3 Act 3/2019. This benefit is means-tested. The total income of the family unit where the orphan belongs, divided by the number of its members, must not exceed the 75% of the annual minimum interprofessional wage, excluding the proportional part of the extraordinary payments.

← 33. Case law is very strict in construing this requirement, and rejects other documental evidences of the life in common of de facto partners. The high number of claims is evidence that formal requirements entail a considerable hurdle for surviving partners to obtain widowhood allowances.

← 34. See Article 1.3 Act 3/2019. This benefit is means-tested. The total income of the family unit where the orphan belongs, divided by the number of its members, must not exceed the 75% of the annual minimum interprofessional wage, excluding the proportional part of the extraordinary payments.

← 35. Article 8.1 and 2 RD 1618/2007. Article 7 D 123/2010 provides that the maximum amount shall be 50% of IPREM. If the amount awarded by the court is lower than EUR 100, the guarantee fund shall pay this amount and can recoup the excess (see STSJ Madrid (Administrative Chamber, Section 6) 835/2019, 27.12.2019 [JUR\2020\113 604]).

← 36. Provincial Governments of Basque Country (Alava, Guipuscoa, Biscay) and Navarre. See additional provision no 1 Foral Regulations on natural persons income tax (Gipuscoa) 3/2014, 17.1.2014, (Biscay) 13/2013, 5.12.2013 and (Alava) 33/2013, 27.11.2013, and Article 2 Foral D-Act 4/2008, 2.6.2008 as amended by Article 1.14 Foral Act 38/2013, 28.12.2013.

← 37. Among many others, for instance, see Article 12, 14 and 20 D-Act (Andalusia) 1/2018, 19.6.2018 (extending to non-married couples some regional deductions from personal income tax or the exemptions to several other taxes).

← 38. See DGT Binding opinions V2230-18, 26.7.2018 (JUR\2018\256836) and V0964/19, 7.5.2019 (JT 2019\703).

← 39. DGT Binding opinion V2041/2016, 12.5.2016. Conversely, the amount resulting from the transfer of the share in the property of the family home as payment of the spousal compensatory award can be reduced by the transferor (DGT Binding opinion V0368/12, 21.2.2012 [JUR 2012\121627).

← 40. The cited participation figures are based on survey responses. They differ from official enrolment rates as reported by the Ministry of Education because the latter only refer to programmes that fulfil the ISCED-0 definition, meaning that they must have an intentional educational component.

← 41. Law 1/2001, of 15 March, on Family Mediation in Catalonia.

← 42. Recommendation Rec (2006)19 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Policy to Support Positive Parenting.

← 43. www.familiasenpositivo.es/.

← 44. Decree (Basque Country) 179/2018, 11.12.2018, on foster care in Basque Country; Act (Valencian Community) 26/2018, 21.12.2018, on the rights of children and adolescents in Valencia, developed by D 35/2021, 26.2.2021, on family foster care; Resolution 20.2.2020 (Andalusia) on the statute of foster family carers.

← 45. See the agreement reached by the Spanish Government with the Catalan Generalitat in whih the former acknowledged that implementation of the Act would be done without prejudice of the statutory powers grated to the región in matters of civil law and child protection services (Article 129 and 166 Catalonia Statute 2006). See resolution EXI/1324/2016, 20.5.2016.

← 46. Organic Act 1/2004, 28.12.2004 on integrated protection measures against gender-based violence (BOE no. 313, 29.12.2004).

← 47. See especially Article 153.1 Penal Code. This provision was deemed constitutional and not discriminatory against men by a number of judgments of the Constitutional Court, starting with STC 59/2008, 14.5.2008 and 98/2008, 24.7.2008.

← 48. For public servants the regime is slightly different. See Additional Provision 16 EBEP. The prospective parents that need to visit a foreign country for adoption purposes also enjoy a parental leave from four weeks before the judicial order of adoption is to be issued. See Article 48.5 III ET. Concerning public servants, Article 49 b) EBEP extends the paid leave up to 2 months even if limited to basic salary.

← 49. But see STSJ Basque Country (Social Chamber, Section 1) 1217/2020, 6.10.2020 (JUR\2020\343178) (dismissing the referral of a question of constitutionality of Article 48.4 II and III ET in a single-mother case, and construing the contested provisions in the light of Article 3 UNCRC, 8 ECHR and 39 CE). With respect to the additional paid leave week that each parent has if the child is a person with a disability, see INSS Response 11.6.2019 [JUR\2 019\190 642] § 12, which was later amended by Response 31.7.2019 in the sense of affirming the right of the mother to enjoy two paid leave weeks. Guillermo L. Barrios Baudor, Prestación por nacimiento y cuidado del menor: primeras interpretaciones administrativas, Aranzadi Doctrinal 1 (2020).

← 50. A female worker affiliated to social security who does not meet the contribution requirements to access the maternity subsidy can ask for a non-contributory allowance during the first six weeks after birth. This period can be increased by two more weeks a) if the birth occurs in a large family or the family becomes large as a result of the birth; b) if the birth takes place in a single-parent family, c) if the birth is multiple, or d) if the mother or the child are persons with a disability equal to or greater than 65%. This allowance amounts to 100% of IPREM (Public Indicator of Multiple Effect Income).

← 51. See STS (Social Chamber, Section 1) 614/2018, 12.6.2018 (RJ\2018\3101) and 293/2020, 7.5.2020 (RJ\2020\1459).

← 52. After the 2019 reform, the way in which Spanish Social Security statistics are presented does not allow to continue historical follow-up series, nor adequate international comparison. The data on leave use are only provided by benefit spells, with no gender distinction, nor information on beneficiaries. Duration is only provided for the first parent (a proxy for mothers), who mostly use the leave in one full-time block of 16 weeks. For the second parent (in heterosexual couples, a proxy for fathers), information on leave duration and full- or part-time use is not yet provided. Therefore, it is not clear whether fathers use their leave in one spell after birth together with the mother (the 6 first weeks after birth are compulsory both for mothers and fathers), full or part-time, or once the mother has returned to work. Some advocacy groups believe that many fathers use their leave in one concurrent spell with the mother, consolidating a secondary caregiver role, with a lower structural impact on long term effects on shared responsibility in child raising. But the methodology at which they arrive at this estimation is unclear.

← 53. See STC 24/2011, 14.3.2011. The issue raised controversy within ordinary courts (se in particular STS [Social Chamber, Section 1] 13.6.2008 [RJ\2008\4227]) and 19.10.2009 [RJ\2009\7606]) and within the Constitutional Court (see in particular STC 3/2007, 15.1.2007 and 26/2011,14.3.2011). Cf David Montoya Medina, Dimensión constitucional de los derechos de conciliación de la vida laboral, personal y familiar, Aranzadi Social 4 (2011).

← 54. Article 34.8 III ET in fine. Any controversy on the matter may be submitted to social courts through an special procedure laid down in Article 139.1 LRJS. The burden of proving the organisational or production needs that prevent accepting the worker’s request lies with the employer. For instance, STSJ Navarre (Social Chamber, section 1) 176/2019, 23.5.2019 (JUR\2019\238613).

← 55. For instance see decision of the Social Court of Pamplona 334/2019, 20.11.2019 (AS\2020\674).

← 56. For example, see Article 2 Resolution (Catalonia) TES/986/2020, 8.5.2020, approves the regulatory bases for the concession, in a public competition regime, of subsidies for the payment of rent.

← 57. This threshold is higher for large families and when there are persons with disability in the household. The threshold for large families of general category is four times the IPREM and for large families of a special category is five times the IPREM. The same applies in the case that there are certain types of people with severe disabilities.

← 58. Exceptionally the limit increases to 4 or 5 times the IPREM if any family member is a person with disability or severe impairments.

← 59. See Resolution (Catalonia) TES/1199/2020, 29.5.2020, suspending the acceptation of applications for aids to tenants to minimise the economic and social impact of COVID-19.

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