Photographer: Denis Doyle/Bloomberg

Only the Old Get Ahead in Rajoy’s Spain

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It’s not just British and German pensioners who enjoy living in Spain.

Spanish retirees saw a boost in both their incomes and their net worth between 2011 and 2014 while working-age families bore the brunt of the nation’s worst economic crisis in modern history. That’s according to a study by the Bank of Spain this week analyzing households’ finances

The study illustrates how Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy succeeded in shielding his core supporters from the effects of the financial crisis after he took power in 2011. While his government cut public salaries, slashed spending on health and education and introduced more flexible labor laws that helped to drive down wages, he also raised pensions and maintained health programs for the elderly.

The result: while median incomes for Spanish households fell 10 percent over Rajoy’s first three years in office, those where the head of the family was aged between 65 and 74 saw an increase of 13 percent. For even older families, income rose 7 percent.

The study examines the fortunes of Spanish families during the second phase of an economic crisis which began in 2008 and saw unemployment soar to a record 27 percent in 2013. The central bank interviewed 6,120 families about their financial situation between September 2014 and March 2015.

During the first three years of the crisis, under Rajoy’s Socialist predecessor Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, older voters shared more of the costs, with the younger cohort of retirees seeing their incomes tick down marginally.

With Rajoy in charge, older Spaniards’s wealth also performed better. While the median family saw its net worth decline by 22 percent between 2011 and 2014, those between aged 65 and 74 experienced an increase of 5.6 percent.

The number of families owning second homes was little changed over the period, at almost 40 percent. Though again, there was a transfer of assets from the younger families to older ones.

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