Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 1 1 3.5 3



    Recognition of cultural diversity and “interculturalism” but a reluctance to employ a framework of “multiculturalism.” Various instruments and institutional entities address issues related to integration, inclusion, and interculturalism.

Affirmation Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5 0.5


  • Traditionally, Spain has been considered a country of territorial cultural diversity, rather than a country with cultural minority diversity (Villarroya 2009). Although there has not been a constitutional affirmation of multiculturalism at the national level, the government has, since at least 2003, begun to recognize the reality of cultural diversity and has focused attention on the social integration and inclusion of immigrants and minorities. This has largely been under the auspices of its National Action Plans on Social Inclusion, which have been released since 2001 (Ibid.).
  • The government’s 2013-2016 National Action Plan on Social Inclusion, which was drafted in consultation with a number of NGOs, commits to strengthening the social integration of immigrants. In addition, the Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants, which was formally constituted in 2006, is attached to the Ministry of Labour and provides information, counsel and advice to governments on matters related to integration (Ministry of Education, Social Policy and Sport 2008; European Commission 2019g).
  • The 2007–2010 Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration recognized Spain as a country of immigration (rather than emigration) as well as a “plural society” and notes that “immigrants of various origins, cultures and characteristics are here to stay, and make up our common identity as Spanish society. And this is of crucial social significance, because the presence of these immigrants will bring about, and is already bringing about, a deep transformation of our society, both demographically and economically, and culturally and politically” (Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs 2007). In the plan, integration is recognized as a process of “mutual adaptation” and a “two-way street” which requires effort on both the part of immigrants and the host society (Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs 2007, 20). The 2011-2014 Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration similarly focuses on employment and economic development, education, health, social services, inclusion, and social cohesion, as well as combatting discrimination (Pasetti 2014).
  • The Catalan government has also taken measures to recognize cultural diversity. In 2000, it created a Secretariat for Immigration, which is attached the Department of Social Action and Citizenship and responsible for policies related to immigration. Since 2005, it has also drafted the region’s plan on citizenship and immigration. The plan, Citizenship and Migration Plan: Horizon 2016, ensures “citizenship based on pluralism, equality and civic behaviour as a rule for coexistence” (Generalitat de Catalunya 2014). Indeed, in a recent Politico article, the Catalan Secretary for Equality, Migration, and Citizenship was quoted, stating that Catalonia is “a country that doesn’t ask anyone to get rid of its own identity… [it encourages them] to be part of a diverse and shared society” (quoted in Saeed 2017).
  • At the municipal level, the city of Barcelona has, since the late 1990s, worked to promote intercultural initiatives. This has included the 1997 Municipal Plan for Interculturalism, an Immigration Agenda and, in 2008, the Barcelona Plan for Interculturalism. The plan notes that“the diversity of origins, languages, customs, values, and beliefs that has made for a considerable increase in sociocultural diversity in Barcelona over the past years has brought on complex changes in coexistence and social cohesion, as well as new opportunities to be addressed” (Ajuntament de Barcelona 2010). The Barcelona Immigration Plan 2012-2015, as Zapata-Barrero (2017) reflects, consolidates this mainstreaming of interculturalism; in this plan, interculturalism moves “from reception to diversity accommodation strategies, where immigrants are no longer seen as passive and ‘assisted’ actors or as welfare-holders, but rather as participative citizens in all spheres of the city. Diversity is categorized clearly as an added value for society, and the strategy thus associates diversity with creativity and social and urban innovation that contribute to city development” (Zapata-Barrero 2017, 257-258).
  • Barcelona also has a Municipal Immigration Council, an advisory body that comprises government officials, as well as representatives of several NGOs, including those that represent ethnic minorities. The Immigration Council’s 2016-2019 Work Plan outlines that “the city has opted for an intercultural model of community life based on mutual interaction and recognition. The wish of Barcelona’s residents to live together, find ways of getting to know one another and sharing has to be accompanied by policies that promote a positive approach to diversity and fight against homogenisation, stereotypes and rumours. Being able to express ourselves in our own language and enjoying it, having an education and training that respect cultural identities and carrying out our own cultural practices within a framework of respect for human rights and basic freedoms are factors that are inseparable from respect for people’s dignity. Recognition comes from an open and inclusive approach, promotes feelings of belonging and leads to social cohesion” (Ajuntament de Barcelona 2016, 14). In 2015, the City Council also announced the “Barcelona, Refuge City” plan, which outlined the increased services and resources it was directing toward refugee resettlement efforts (Ajuntament de Barcelona 2015). This included access to schools, daycares, and a wide array of services for families (Agatiello and LeVoy 2016).


    Some recent evidence of a shift toward intercultural pedagogy, although not without controversy.

School Curriculum Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5 0


  • As early as 1990, the Constitutional Law on the General Organization of the Education System noted a need to fight ethno-cultural discrimination. Despite this, implementation of intercultural education does not appear to have clearly taken place in the 1990s (Zapata-Barrero and de Witte 2007, 6).
  • The 2006 Education Law established attention to diversity as a basic principle within the Spanish education system (Zapata-Barrero and de Witte 2007, 12-13).
  • The National Action Plan on Social Inclusion 2013-2016 notes that Spanish education should “promote integration and intercultural co‐existence to contribute to offsetting inequalities or meeting the special educational needs of young immigrants” (Secretary of State of Social Services and Equality 2013, 54). It further insists that students should “learn the language and culture of the adopted country whilst maintaining the culture of the origin country, as well as other learning and inter‐cultural actions” (Ibid, 54).
  • Despite this apparent focus on intercultural education, the Law on the Improvement of Quality in Education (Ley Orgánica de Mejora de la Calidad Educativa; LOMCE) that came into effect in 2014 makes no reference to intercultural education or diversity principles (Government of Spain 2013; see also Martinez-Usarralde et al. 2016). Furthermore, the implementation of the law canceled the mandatory citizenship education program, which provided intercultural programming, making it an optional school subject (Navarro-Medina and De-Alba-Fernandez 2015; Huddleston et al. 2015). As Huddleston et al. (2015, 20) note, “cuts to funding and the citizenship course mean that schools are free to decide whether and how to teach about cultural diversity… Schools have the discretion on how to promote cultural diversity across the curriculum and school day, though few trainings are available.”


    Varies, but evidence in Catalonia, in particular.

Media Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5 0.5


  • The State and Radio Television Act requires the public broadcaster (RTVE) to promote Spain's linguistic and cultural diversity (Villarroya and Ateca-Amestoy 2013), yet the representation of diversity in the media varies depending on the region, with less attention given to immigrants and ethnic minorities in the bilingual regions, in particular. As Cullen International (2019) observes, much of the focus on diversity has hinged on representing the different linguistic communities of Spain as opposed to specific ethnic minority or immigrant groups. Masip et al. (2016) also note that airtime hours for broadcasting in minority languages can be limited in some areas.
  • Nonetheless, Villarroya (2009, 27) notes that “growing immigration has led the public media to seek new formulas through which to make this new social reality more visible in broadcasting and to make television available and accessible to new citizens as a means of facilitating their integration.” Catalonia’s public broadcaster was the first in Spain to create a Diversity Committee, and it has launched initiatives to increase multilingual subtitling, to make broadcasting language more accessible, and to include programming and coverage that better reflects, and is of interest to, immigrants and minorities (Villarroya 2009). The Audiovisual Council of Catalonia initiated the Bureau for Diversity in the Audiovisual Field (MDA), which “brings together representatives of various cultural groups, institutions, companies, professional groups, research groups, support organizations, universities, the media and other people and bodies interested in promoting a better representation of multiculturalism and diversity in audiovisual media in Catalonia” (Generalitat de Catalunya 2020).



Exemption Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0


  • Since 2010, there have been a number of new restrictions imposed on the wearing of some religious symbols. A push for national legislation pertaining to the burqa and niqab began back in 2010 but the Spanish government rejected the proposed bill at the time. The issue emerged again in 2014 when the Spanish Minister of the Interior raised concerns about the burqa in relation to national security. Subsequently, in 2015, the national government passed Ley Mordaza, a series of new laws regulating the rights to assembly and demonstration. Article 16 specifically prohibits the wearing of face coverings at demonstrations on the grounds of security (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018).
  • There have also been a number of municipal bans imposed on Islamic dress. Nine cities (eight of which are in Catalonia, including Barcelona) have prohibited the wearing of face coverings or veils in public spaces. In some cases, these regulations have been defended on the basis that it undermined social cohesion, others on the basis of identification and security concerns (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018). The Spanish Supreme Court has struck down bans in two of these cities to date but questions remain about whether this will have an impact on other current municipal regulations and proposals for future bans (BBC 2018a). 


    Generally, no. Permitted only in specific instances.

Dual Citizenship Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0 0


  • In general, Spain does not allow dual citizenship although the constitution and Spanish civil code do allow the state to negotiate treaties with Latin American countries that may allow for the maintenance of more than one citizenship (United States Office of Personnel Management 2001). At present, such agreements are in place with Ibero-American countries, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal or persons of Sephardic origin (Government of Spain 2016). In addition, while Spain does require renouncement of an existing citizenship or upon the acquisition of another, it does not insist on the provision of proof; as such, Faist and Gerdes (2008) point out that there are many de facto dual citizens in Spain. Nonetheless, in Howard’s (2005) index of citizenship policies, he categorizes Spain as a country that does not permit dual citizenship.


    Recent commitments to do so; evidence of support at the regional level.

Funding Ethnic Groups Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5 0.5


  • The 2011-2014 Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration commits to provide support to immigrants’ associations, to bolster their operating capacities, and to help establish networks of immigrant associations and organizations that support immigrant integration (Pasetti 2014).
  • In the 2013-2016 National Action Plan for Social Inclusion, the government commits to strengthening the integration of immigrants and notes that this will be furthered by the provision of subsidies to organizations that focus on immigrant integration and intercultural mediation. It also commits to funding local projects that aid in the integration of immigrants as well as to the financial aid and promotion of programs that link immigrants to their communities of origin (Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality 2013).
  • Although some funds for migrant integration have been clawed back or eliminated over the past decade (see, for example, Benitez 2012 on the Support Fund), the Spanish Fund is administered by the General Directorate of Migration and the General Directorate of Integration and Humanitarian Attention and is intended to support associations and programs aimed at the “management of migratory flows, reception, integration, humanitarian assistance and voluntary return of immigrants and applicants for international protection” (Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration 2020).
  • At a regional level, the Catalan government provides grants to local authorities and organizations that facilitate the integration of immigrants and that undertake programs designed to promote interculturalism and diversity (Department of Labor, Social Affairs, and Families 2019).



Bilingual Education Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 1 1 1 1


  • Mother tongue instruction and preservation have been longstanding goals of the Spanish government. The Arabic Language and Moroccan Cultural Learning Program (based on an agreement signed with Morocco in 1980) was implemented in 1985 (Pasetti 2014; Pastor and Mijares 2011). Since then, the government has also supported the Portuguese Language and Cultural Programme, which provide mother tongue instruction and cultural activities to students (Villarroya 2009). Typically, these programs are offered in regions in which there are higher numbers of immigrants speaking Arabic or Portuguese, with the goal of increasing social integration.
  • In 2004, the Ministry of Culture and 10 NGOs launched a campaign to promote reading in the mother tongue to immigrants living in Spain; the goal was to promote the importance of literacy (Villarroya 2009).
  • The 2014 Law on Education (LOMCE) reinforces the importance of foreign language learning, noting that the “law strongly supports multilingualism, redoubling efforts to ensure that students are fluent in at least a first foreign language, whose level of listening and reading comprehension and oral and written expression is crucial” (Government of Spain 2013); the focus on multilingualism, however, is generally seen as a means to “promote employability and career ambitions” (Government of Spain 2013) rather than intercultural or multicultural aims.
  • Further, Spain’s National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2013-2016 also advocates for educational programs that allow migrants to “learn the language and culture of the adopted country whilst maintaining the culture of the origin country, as well as other learning and inter‐cultural actions” (Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality 2013, 54).
  • The autonomous regions of Spain have also developed a number of multilingual programs for students. The Catalan government developed some heritage language programs in schools throughout the 2000s in a number of immigrant languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Dutch, and more (Vila et al. 2017). Although some language programs have been met with great challenges, as Vila et al. (2017, 515) note, “Spain’s plurilingual autonomous communities have officially espoused the goal of high levels of bilingualism and biliteracy for their entire populations, a goal that is recently evolving towards that of generalized trilingualism. This evolution has also been endorsed by the central authorities. As a result, very few political actors now claim to be in favor of monolingualism.”


   Although there is no evidence of an affirmative action policy per se, some employment measures have been adopted that target immigrant groups, and the constitution could be interpreted as requiring positive action measures.

Affirmative Action Scores
Year: 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
Score: 0 0 0 0.5 0.5


  • The Strategic Plan on Citizenship and Integration commits to fighting discrimination, ensuring equal opportunities for immigrants, promoting diversity management, and preventing job harassment as a result of racial or ethnic origin (Pasetti 2014). A Council for the Promotion of Equal Treatment and Non- discrimination on the Grounds of Racial or Ethnic Origin (re-named the Council for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in 2014) was created in 2003; it provides assistance to those who have experienced discrimination, as well as providing information and guidance and analyzing legislation (Equinet Europe 2019a). In addition, the immigration law of 2000 made provisions for a Spanish Observatory on Racism and Xenophobia (Observatorio Español contra el Racismo y la Xenofobia), which was opened in 2006 and provides research and data assistance related to racism and discrimination (Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security, and Migration 2020).
  • In developing priorities for targeted action, the National Vocational Training and Employment Plan, which was established under Royal Decree 631/1993 of 3 May, gives preference to unemployed persons with difficulties entering or re-entering the labour market; these include women re-entering the workforce, disabled persons and migrant workers (Spanish Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women 1996). Although the plan did not establish a preferential hiring scheme, it did target migrant workers to receive training and assistance to aid in labour market (re)entry. The plan is now implemented by the autonomous regions.
  • In addition, a report on measures to combat discrimination notes that “the Court has interpreted that actions of the public authorities to remedy the employment disadvantage of certain socially marginalized groups is actually required by a commitment to equality properly understood” (Rodriguez 2008, 51). This stems from Article 14 of the constitution, which sees positive action measures not as contravening equality, but as a legitimate means of promoting it (Rodriguez 2008).
  • Directives in 2000 and 2003 make clear that positive action is not prohibited by equality laws and make clear that employers may take special measures to achieve employment equality (Cachon 2012, 84-85). Article 35 of Law 62/2003 provides that “with a view to ensuring full equality on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, the principle of equality shall not prevent maintaining or adopting specific measures in favour of certain groups in order to prevent or compensate for disadvantages that they may encounter” (Rodriguez 2008, 51). Article 30 of the same law states that “in order to guarantee full equality irrespective of racial or ethnic origin, the principle of equal treatment shall not prevent the maintenance or adoption of special measures benefiting certain groups, designed to prevent or to offset any disadvantages that they suffer as a result of their racial or ethnic origin” (quoted in Rodriguez 2008, 52). In other words, positive action measures directed at ethnic minorities, which may include quotas or targets, could be understood to be required by Spain’s equality laws.
  • The 2008-2010 Strategic Action Plan on Social Inclusion includes some special measures for disadvantaged groups that could be construed as affirmative action, but they are not clearly targeted towards employment (Cachon 2012, 85).