Written by Grace Hayden, GEI Associate
The city of Cadiz – once one of Europe’s most prosperous naval ports – is currently caught in what appears to be an unyielding economic slump. With a history of over 3000 years, the city is often considered the oldest in occidental Europe. But Cadiz isn’t just outstanding for it’s age – the province of Cadiz also has the highest-ranking unemployment rate in the country, coming in just above 42%.
Although legend credits Hercules as the founder of Cadiz, historians believe the Phoenicians originally established the city in 1100 BC. Throughout the course of history many great empires would fight to conquer the narrow strip of land known to the ancient world as “Gadir” or “The Stronghold”. In 501 BC the Carthaginians occupied the walled city until the end of the Punic War, at which point the city surrendered to Rome and was given the name “Gades”. Control of Cadiz would then be passed from the Visigoths to the Moors, and eventually to Alphonso X. However, It wasn’t until the discovery of the Americas in 1492 that Cadiz was able to become a prosperous city with a flourishing economy once again. Unfortunately, when Spain lost the American colonies Cadiz was hit with an economic shock from which it never recovered. With the onset of the Spanish and American war and subsequent Spanish Civil war, Cadiz’s decline was accelerated, putting the city into an economic rut that the city is still trying to get out of.
Today, limited industrial development with the exception of shipbuilding yards, various factories, and fisheries characterizes Cadiz’s economy. Navantia, a state-run shipbuilding corporation, operates three shipyards in the region. The factory located in Cadiz specializes in reparation and restoration of both civil and military products, and employs just 150 people. The 10 ports along the Gulf of Cadiz bring in 60,000 kilos of fish and various types of seafood on average each day resulting in estimated revenues of 60 million euros.
Shipping lines and passenger traffic may offer some economic stimulation for those who are able to secure a job, but the main source of income and employment in the city is the commercial port used for importing and exporting various goods such as wine, salt, olives, coal, coffee, and timber. However, with so little opportunity for employment, the young people of Cadiz seem to be becoming the city’s biggest export. “Finding a job in Cadiz is like winning the lottery,” one local explained. “People are leaving to find better jobs and the population is becoming older, creating more unemployment.” Despite the fact that overall unemployment has decreased in Spain from 25.93% to 24.47% in the last quarter, youth employment and long-term employment have actually decreased, and last year alone approximately 79,000 Spanish nationals left the country in search of work elsewhere.
So what does the future hold for Cadiz? With an aging populace and essentially no opportunities for expansion, the city is quickly becoming too impractical to live in. However, Cadiz remains a great place to work, study and vacation in – opportunities the city seems to be capitalizing on to stay relevant.