SPAIN 2033: Four scenarios to act now


This PwC report is encompassed in the 'Spain 2033' collection, a series of documents that aim to anticipate the future to make decisions today that will affect our tomorrow. 'Spain 2033' is an initiative of Smart Growth program. For your interest, we reproduce below the most interesting lines.

From now until 2033 we will experience a relative retreat of globalisation: new regional blocks will compete against each other, increasing protectionist tendencies, although boosting foreign direct investment flows. One of these blocks will be an economically cohesive Europe, yet falling short of a United States of Europe. Global growth will be held back by protectionist measures, which will slow trade and productivity increases. There will be less pressure on the European Social Model and more redistribution of wealth than there would have been with more globalisation. This scenario has certain positive aspects for Spain. Its foreign trade is highly concentrated in the EU and will be less affected than other countries more exposed to Asia like Germany. Less global competition will imply less pressure on labour costs and Spain will become a top industrial destination in Europe. Furthermore, Spain’s high quality of life will attract talent and encourage European multiculturalism within the country. 

This report has identified four possible scenarios for the world and Spain in 2033. The above is what we consider to be the most likely, although it is by no means the only conceivable one. Experts are increasingly warning that the world is stuck in “no man’s land”, with an unstable international order. Events in the last few decades have brought us to a point at which it seems unavoidable to rethink how to govern our world. 


spanish clasroom


The four scenarios developed in this report explore the different directions that this “reordering” can take. In addition to the global governance model, we also take into account different scenarios for the integration of the European Union, another variable which is highly uncertain and decisive for the ‘Spanish’ world, given our particular location. 

We can visualise the world that waits for us in each scenario, in view of a series of trends that will configure, in one way or another, our political life, our economy and our society. How will our world be in 2033? In 2033 power will be less concentrated in developed countries: there will be no clear referee in an international order marked by the diversity of the players. National governments will see their power increasingly reduced in relation to other actors. The economic pendulum will move towards Asia, there will be a greater middle class in today´s developing countries and more inequality in developed countries. We will be older, more urban and a highly qualified elite will be more cosmopolitan, while those less qualified will experience the risk of a structural unemployment: innovation will make us grow, but it could very well be a jobless growth. Individuals will be empowered by new technologies and natural resources will become scarcer and more expensive. 

On the basis of this background we have developed four scenarios.


SCENARIO ONE: ‘Global governance’ 

The world evolves towards a multilateral governance where different organizations, including political institutions, govern in a coordinated and constructive way. Meanwhile Europe progresses towards the construction of a United States of Europe. This is the scenario which leads to the greatest economic growth, at both world level and for Spain, but inequality will rise. 


SCENARIO TWO: ‘Regional blocks’

 Regional blocks compete against each other, increasing protectionist tendencies in the world economy. An economically cohesive Europe, with Germany in the driving seat, is one of them. Global growth is limited by protectionist measures that slow economic exchanges and productivity increases, leading to less pressure on the European Social Model and more redistribution of wealth than there would have been with more globalisation.


SCENARIO THREE: ‘National protectionism’

A clear backwards shift in the process of globalisation and the strengthening of national political power in line with a smaller “a la carte” Europe. It is the most redistributive scenario, but with the weakest global economic growth. For Spain it is without doubt the worst scenario as, with no employment creation, it would only lead to the redistribution of poverty. 


SCENARIO FOUR: ‘Economic interests take the lead’

National and global political institutions are increasingly powerless against the forces of economic globalisation. Global economic growth is slower than in our best scenario and growing inequality is exacerbated. A two-speed Europe takes shape. We identify also a few disruptive ‘black swans’: the possibility of a drastic American withdrawal, the risk of China collapsing, the rupturing of the Eurozone, a massive technological breakdown and serious security challenges arising from the Middle East and North Africa.


The six great tendencies

1.GEOPOLITICS: a game without referee 

The loss of the influence of the west, the consolidation of the new emerging powers together with the effects of globalisation will lead to a geopolitical set-up, similar to a game without a referee. Political and ideological diversity of the players and the greater power of the economy over the influence of the military will add complexity to the global situation and will create a context which is more difficult and heterogeneous for companies in general.


2.THE WORLD ECONOMY: a status quo facing the Pacific 

The transfer of economic power to emerging countries will lead to the creation of a new global status quo leaning towards the Asia Pacific. Europe and Japan will grow much less than the US and the emerging economies over the next few decades. In a more global world, with larger systemic organizations and with a greater risk of spread in future crisis, the design of financial governance will be crucial. 


3.INNOVATION as motor of everything

In the new productive model over the next few decades, innovation will be the motor of everything. As a consequence, competition for talent and labour mobility will reach levels unknown before now. A phenomenon which, together with the impact of new technologies in production processes, could increase inequality between workers and have social effects which are difficult to foresee.


4.SOCIAL STRUCTURE: a more autonomous individual

Economic development, the appearance of a large emerging middle class and the impact of information technologies will affect the structure of our society. Individual freedom and decisionmaking capacity will rise and the individual will gain increasing more power in comparison to the States.


5.DEMOGRAPHICS: old aged, urban and ‘on the move’

Increasing life expectancy and quality, falling birth rate, booming cities and migratory movements will be some of the demographic keys of a world that will be witness to phenomena such as a significant advancement of women in society.


6.SUSTAINABILITY: scarcer and more expensive resources

The pressure on natural resources will increase significantly in the next twenty years as a consequence of the increase in the global population and the effects of the new emerging middle class. The rivalry between states and between companies to control and ensure the supply of natural resources will lead to the exploitation of non-conventional sources of energy as a key point of geopolitics and economy in 2033. 


smart cities


How to prepare Spain for 2033? 

Recommendations for public administration 

1. A wider external policy • Focus on and head towards Asia • Restructure external administration in order to increase its dynamism and multiculturalism • Support the internationalisation of the SMEs • Differentiate risk, maintaining position in Latin American and developing activity in Africa 

2. Create a fertile environment for innovation and productivity • Increase legal security • Increase participation of the private sector in R & D • Incentivate public-private cooperation • Take advantage of available infrastructures and housing • Reduce energy vulnerability and impulse efficiency 

3. Compensate the effects of ageing and preserve the welfare state • Promote increases in the birth rate and lengthen working life • Increase the number of females in the workplace • Strengthen a model of integration for the second generation of immigrants

4. Invest in human capital and reduce the generational gap • An educational framework that creates talent • Retain and attract talent • Stop the current duality of the labour market • Avoid the disengagement of new Spanish emigration 

5. Strengthen social cohesion and institutional quality • Impulse and promote equal opportunities and meritocracy • Boost the transparency of the public sector.


Recommendations for companies 

1. Enhance the internationalisation of companies • Take on the strategic character of internationalisation • Implement corporate diplomacy and improve risk analysis 

2. Impulse the corporate multi localisation and positioning in the emerging economies • Positioning in new markets • Robust geographic structure through multi-localisation • Temporary union of SME’s for internationalisation • New formulas to attract talent and encourage and promote multiculturalism 

3. Flexible and multicultural human capital • Employees with a multicultural background • Greater presence of foreigners at management and board level 

4. Focus on emerging social groups and on new consumer patterns • Value proposition for the new emerging middle class • Products and services for those who are older than 65 • Opportunities in zones, such as Africa, where there is a high level of urbanization 

5. The company as a social and political element • Take on new social responsibilities derived from the diffusion of power.


By PwC*

* This work has been led by Javier Solana from research by Angel Pascual-Ramsay and Alvaro Imbernón, director and researcher, respectively, Program Global Risks ESADEgeo-Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics, with team collaboration Smart Growth PwC.


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