Fundación Ramón Areces
Distribución de la población y accesibilidad a los servicios en España

Financial inclusion and accessibility to other essential services in Spain

Report sponsored by the Ramón Areces Foundation on the Spanish population ability to access to certain essential services: education, health and banking. The main conclusion is that most of the population has these essential services in their municipalities of residence, and when this is not the case, the time it takes to get to another municipality where there is such a service is reasonable. In the case of banking services, the report comments that "not having access to a bank branch in the municipality of residence does not imply financial exclusion", especially after the boost of online banking and digital payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main findings of the report based on a very exhaustive investigation carried out by the Valencian Institute of Economic Research (Ivie) are the following:

  • Health: 90% of the Spanish population has access to a health center in their municipality of residence or in a travel time of about 10 minutes, and only 1.3% of the population has to travel outside their municipality for more than 20 minutes. In the most extreme case, only about 100,000 people (slightly less than 300 municipalities) have a health center more than 30 minutes away. About hospital care, 91% of the population resides in a municipality with a hospital or is less than 30 minutes away from one. About 1,000,000 people (2.1% of the population) take more than 45 minutes to a hospital. 
  • Education: In primary education, around 50,000 students do not have a school in their municipality (1.2% of the population in that age range). In secondary education, about 130,000 (7% of students) do not have a school in their municipality of residence, of which 93% have one less than 20 minutes away from their residence. 86% of high school students have an educational center within 20 minutes.
  • Banking: 3% of the population (almost 1.4 million people) lives in municipalities where there is no bank branch (from 2% in 2008) or the closest one is 8 km or about 11 minutes away by car. This time has hardly changed since 2008, as branch closures have concentrated in municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants that continue to have bank offices. Not having access to a bank branch in your municipality “does not imply financial exclusion, since the physical branch is less and less relevant as a means of access to financial services”.
  • Financial exclusion of vulnerable groups: The report indicates that there are still vulnerable population groups for whom not having access to a bank branch could cause financial exclusion (mainly people who live in municipalities where there is no internet or who do not have devices through which to connect to the network, and / or do not have the minimum digital skills). However, it is the public administration that should solve this issue, ensuring that internet reaches all municipalities in Spain or promoting other collaborative solutions for the installation / provision of financial services. "Banks should not be held responsible for the problem, since the banking business, like any other, must be viable, which is not consistent with maintaining branches that are not profitable."

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