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Strengths and weaknesses of Spain’s economy with regard to the challenge of digitalisation

R. Alós, F. Miguélez, O. Molina, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
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Despite a good position in terms of connectivity and digital public services, the lack of adaptation to the digital economy of small- and medium-sized companies, and shortfalls in the training of human capital, mean that the challenges and uncertainties posed by digitalisation are especially high in Spain.
Key points
  • 1
       Within the EU, Spain is situated in 10th position with regard to digitalisation. It exceeds the European average for connectivity and stands out in its integration of digital technology and in digital public services, but it remains at a low position in terms of human capital and in the use of Internet services.
  • 2
       The production model, a shortfall in investment effort in RDI, a lack of entrepreneurship in its business culture and high precarity in employment conditions represent Spain’s weak points with regard to the challenge of digitalisation.
  • 3
       The training of workers, especially of young people; the investment appeal of some cities; the digital and connection infrastructures, and good digital public administration are strong points for Spain’s digital economy.
Education, production model and investments require improvement

Barely 55% of people aged between 16 and 74 years have basic digital skills and specialists in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) represent only 3% of the employed population, which places Spain in 19th position among the 28 member states of the EU. These important deficits arise in part from the education system, but also from a production model that is based on a high number of unstable jobs. In fact, the weight of the ICT sector in gross domestic product (GDP) is situated far below the average of the EU (in the year 2015 Spain occupied 20th position out of 28 member states). In the same sense, whereas the majority of EU countries have increased their investments in RDI since the peak of the crisis, in Spain investment has fallen from 1.35% of GDP in 2010 to 1.21% in 2017.

In line with these data, some 38.5% of experts surveyed point out the production model as the weakest point, whereas 27.4% consider that it is the education system that has the longest way to go. In contrast, the high rating of workers’ skills, training and adaptability (43.3%) constitutes a strong point that makes it possible to face the challenge with a certain degree of optimism.

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