Spain deserves better than regressive socialist policies

Julia Behan

October 17, 2019

In September, Spain’s acting prime minister and leader of the socialist party PSOE, Pedro Sánchez, released 370 policy statements. This was an attempt to further discussions with other parties in order to form a government. Unsurprisingly, Sánchez’s proposals failed to put an end to the disagreements. With a date set for Spain’s newest elections, it’s worth having a look into the beliefs of the party that is likely to form part of the next government.

The party claims that it wants to help solve the problem of Spain’s infamously high unemployment rates, yet it proposes policies that are likely to worsen it. They plan to improve workers’ rights (by implementing restrictive hiring and firing laws) but fail to see that the problem with Spain’s labour market is demand side. Their policies disincentivise employers from hiring more workers. Their ideas aimed at improving working conditions are great for those already in employment but do nothing to reduce unemployment, as the problem lies not in making work attractive for unemployed people but rather finding them work to do.

The proposal of a higher “interprofessional minimum wage” (statement 13) will also fail to reduce unemployment, as it is those at the lower end of the income spectrum who will become more expensive to employers, thereby hurting the poorest rather than boosting their incomes.

What’s more, the PSOE is trying to cut down on temporary contracts (44). This will deter employers from hiring new workers as it will be harder to fire them and harder to assess their value to the firm before hiring them long-term – it’s just another one of those well-meaning, supposedly virtuous policies which actually hurt the unemployed rather than protecting workers. And the plan to ease unemployment by creating jobs in the public sector (42) is only a superficial solution and could drag down productivity at the same time.

The PSOE is sheepish in its refusal to amend the constitution to allow for independence referendums, a decision that’s tactically appealing but morally wrong. When discussing Catalonia, the party claims it wants to start a dialogue between the Spanish government and the Catalan government (350), but it is an empty promise. From a liberal standpoint, it is clear that the Catalan people should have the right to a referendum whether or not independence is right for the region. But the PSOE has no real interest in entertaining the debate.

Perhaps the boldest policy proposal is the party’s desire to legalise and offer euthanasia on the current health system. Given that Spain is often praised for being at the forefront of healthcare (due to its score of 92/100 in the healthcare access and quality index), Britain would do well to take note of ideas like this.

The PSOE’s euthanasia stance, however, is out of step with the rest of their regressive agenda on bodily autonomy. A key example of the PSOE denying women the right to their bodies is their opposition to surrogacy (75), showing a fundamental disregard for a woman’s fundamental right to autonomy. The party labels all surrogacy, paid and unpaid, as degrading, irrespective of personal choice. This desire to ban surrogacy seems hypocritical when considering their policy of guaranteeing women help with having children (74).

Another way in which PSOE wants to deny women autonomy is by outlawing prostitution (69). Despite claiming to support and empower women, the socialists pass judgement on their choices – choices which ought to be none of the government’s business. They will also make the poorest women less safe.

This is made all the more insulting as the party maintains the guise of helping women, with their attempts at inclusive language, for example (367). Unfortunately for the PSOE, actions speak louder than words. While they are in favour of condescending female quotas (219), surely it would be better to have policies that work for all regardless of gender, rather than pushing policies that only work for some, and retrospectively trying to bridge the gaps (40).

The PSOE manages to say a lot – enough to make 370 policy statements – without saying much, achieved thanks in part to its repetition of policies, such as its plan to end forest fires (numbers 45, 272, 277 and 287). It’s easy to say you support a cause when it costs you nothing. The proposal was primarily meant for Podemos and so PSOE know that they can throw in support for any cause without being held to it by the general public.

Sánchez has forced Spain back to the polls in an attempt to get the result he wants. Spain is being put through the wringer by a man who prioritises his political success – by refusing to compromise or form a coalition with any party – over working to provide a government reflective of Spain’s previous election.


Written by Julia Behan

Julia Behan is a Research Associate at the Adam Smith Institute.


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