Basque Country Economy

The Basque Autonomous Community ranks first in Spain in terms of per capita product, it’s the most economically productive region of the country with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita (adjusted to purchasing power parity, PPP) being 22% higher than that of the European Union and 30% higher than Spain’s average in 2016 at €34,400. In 2019, the community showed a surplus in public finances, at 0.3% of the GDP.

Industrial activities were traditionally centred on steel and shipbuilding, mainly due to the rich iron ore resources found during the 19th century around Bilbao. The Estuary of Bilbao was the centre of Euskadi’s industrial revolution during the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. These activities decayed during the economic crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, giving ground for the development of the services sector and new technologies.

Today, the strongest industrial sectors of the Basque Country’s economy are the manufacturing sector, present in the valleys of Biscay and Gipuzkoa; aeronautics and logistics in Vitoria-Gasteiz; and finance and energy, in Bilbao.

The biggest companies in the Basque Country are: BBVA, one of the largest financial institutions in the world and Spain’s second largest bank; the multinational energy company Iberdrola (both of them have their headquarters in Bilbao); Mondragón Cooperative Corporation, the largest cooperative in the world; railway vehicle manufacturer CAF and Gamesa, the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer.

Eight out of ten Spanish municipalities with the lowest unemployment rates were found across this autonomous community in 2015, highlighting such towns as Arrasate, Portugalete and Barakaldo with a strong manufacturing industrial make-up. The Basque Autonomous Community ranked above other communities in Spain in terms of resilience in the face of the economic crisis, going on to become a beacon and a subject of study in Europe.

In 2013 the Basque Country outperformed Spain in several parameters, but economic overall figures were highly variable. Spanish figures are subject to conspicuous seasonal fluctuation, relying on its tourist and services sectors, while Basque performance is rather based on mid- and long-term results, according with its more industrial focus. In the last quarter of 2017, unemployment in this autonomous community rose to 11.1% (8.43% in Gipuzkoa), second lowest in Spain after Navarre, at a percentage slightly higher than the EU average (10.8%), but still ahead of the Spanish overall unemployment rate of around 16.55%, the second highest in the EU.

In regards to GDP performance, 2017 was a remarkably positive year for the Basque Autonomous Community. It underwent an increase in GDP of 3.0%, close to the Spanish increase, 3.1%. In the last term of 2013, the public debt of the Basque Autonomous Community stood at 13.00% of its GDP, totalling 3,753 € per capita, as compared to Spain’s overall 93.90%, totalling 20,383 € per capita.

The Basque Government’s high-ranking officials, as well as Basque-based party leaders and personalities, have protested and voiced their concern over the detrimental effects of austerity measures passed by the Spanish Government as of 2011, overruling Basque taxation powers, may be having on industry and trade, especially export. Basque officials have strongly advocated for participation, along with Navarre, in the Ecofin, with a full membership, in order to defend Basque interests in line with Basque reality and fiscal status, and not as a Spanish subsidiary.

Basque Country Transport

The strategic geographical location of the Basque Country as a link between the northwest and centre of Spain and the rest of Europe makes this territory heavily transited.

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