Evolving Family Models in Spain

A New National Framework for Improved Support and Protection for Families

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Spanish society values families and family life highly, but the way that families look and live has been changing drastically over the past decades. From being one of the countries with the highest fertility rates in Europe, Spain now has the lowest rate in the region and the legalisation of divorce and social acceptance of co-habitation has led to a decline in the traditional nuclear family model. At the same time, the share of mothers who are employed increased by more than 50% over the past two decades, though it remains below the OECD average. While family law has evolved quite strongly alongside these societal changes, family policy – i.e. the combination of benefits, services, tax breaks and leave arrangements that support family members in raising and providing care to minor children and other dependent persons – has undergone some changes but few major reforms. This report suggests ways to adapt Spain’s family policy to incorporate family diversity into the national policy framework, improve family well-being, reduce child poverty and make family life easier for all.


The changing profile of Spanish families

This chapter provides an overview on the current trends that are leading to an increasing diversity of family forms and family life in Spain. Spain has the lowest total fertility rate among EU countries and many Spanish families are becoming smaller. Furthermore, the country has experienced a modernisation of the institution of the family in the last decades, which led to the liberalisation of marriage and divorce laws, more egalitarian gender roles, a wider acceptance of the diversity of family forms, and the emergence of new kinship roles. Across many dimensions, people in Spain benefit from well-being outcomes that are similar to or better than the OECD average. Yet, a significant share of the population struggles with challenges such as insufficient income and risk of poverty, unemployment and high housing prices. This is particularly true for households with children, which tend to be more vulnerable than other population groups.


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