Catalan Minister for Economy and Finance, Natàlia Mas Guix, assured that "the Catalan economy is resisting and moving forward in a good way, with growing strengths, despite a wide range of obstacles – some fortuitous, some unforeseen, and others deliberate – but it continues to demonstrate its resilience and competitiveness". One example is the GDP for 2022, which grew by 5.5%, two points above the euro area, to 270.7 billion euros. These are some of the data that can be found in the Annual Report on the Catalan Economy 2022, drawn up by the Government of Catalonia.
Mas Guix explained that "good results" were achieved last year in areas such as exports and the labour market, where unemployment was at its lowest for the last 15 years, and the employment and temporary employment rates rose up to meet European standards. These are among the examples showing that "the Catalan economy has much more solid foundations than before, but will need to be further strengthened in a context fraught with challenges", such as inflation, climate change, food and water security, artificial intelligence, and the emergence of new geopolitical blocs and new demographic and migratory dynamics.
GDP recovers to pre-pandemic levels
According to the data published in the 2022 Annual Report, the Catalan economy not only withstood the inflationary and geopolitical onslaught, but also far exceeded its growth outlook for 2022. Catalan GDP showed greater strength than initially expected; although the forecast was for 4.4%, it ended up growing by 5.5%, 2.1 points above the euro area (3.4%) and at the same rate as the Spanish economy (5.5%). In fact, from the second quarter of the year onwards, the pre-pandemic volume of GDP had already been recovered. All this in an unfavourable global context, marked by inflationary pressures, sharp interest rate spikes, and the energy and raw materials crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.
GDP growth was the result of a positive contribution from both domestic demand (2.7 points) and foreign demand (2.8 points). Highlights include a notable increase in household consumption (4.1%) and gross capital formation (3.8%), which received a boost from NextGenerationEU funds; the strong growth in international tourism; and the resilience of exports of non-tourism goods and services.
The report also shows growth prospects for 2023 and 2024. As for 2023, GDP growth also reflects a positive contribution from both domestic and foreign demand, despite the weakening of world trade. Domestic demand is set to gain prominence in 2024, especially investment, as inflation moderates and economic confidence recovers. Growth is projected at 1.7% in 2023 and 2.2% in 2024.
Positive trends in the foreign sector, with exports geared towards the European market
The foreign sector drove growth in the Catalan economy in 2022, contributing 2.8 percentage points to GDP. Exports of non-tourism goods and services grew by 5.0% and imports, by 5.3%. In addition, exports to the EU increased by 1.5 points compared to 2019 (60.7% of the total). This differed from imports, with those from outside the EU showing twice the growth of those from within the EU market.
Record high for exports and the number of exporting companies
Catalonia's sales abroad reached an all-time high of nearly 95 billion euros (17.9% more than the year before) and topped the sales charts for Spain as a whole, accounting for 24.4% of the total volume. The number of companies exporting more than €50,000 per year grew by 5.9% to 14,024, also reaching record highs. Likewise, the number of companies with sales abroad exceeding five million euros per year increased by 10.7% to 1,911.
Strong momentum from foreign tourism
Foreign tourism gave a strong boost to the Catalan economy, as consumption by this group increased to 5.4% of GDP. Moreover, Catalonia ranked first in Spain in number of foreign tourists, drawing 20.7% of the total. Hotel overnight stays from domestic tourism exceeded pre-pandemic figures, with an increase of 11.2% for residents in Catalonia and 9.1% for residents in the rest of Spain.
Recovery of the business sector
According to the Central Companies Directory (DIRCE), the number of companies with registered offices in Catalonia grew by 1.8% in 2021 to 634,223 (up 0.7% compared to 2019). However, this recovery was uneven: there were more companies in transport, construction and other services than in 2019, while industry, commerce, and hotels and restaurants still had fewer.
Labour market strength and a reduced temporary employment rate
In 2022, employment continued to grow at a solid pace despite the uncertain economic landscape, already exceeding pre-pandemic values: social security registration grew by 3.8%, the LFS employed population went up by 2.1% and the number of hours worked increased by 4.9%. The employment rate of 15- to 64-year-olds rose to 69%, higher than before the pandemic and very similar to the euro area (69.4%). Moreover, almost 40% of the employment created between 2015 and 2022 is concentrated in higher-quality jobs, namely for scientific and other skilled professionals. The unemployment rate fell from 11.6% in 2021 to 9.7%, the lowest since 2008. Finally, thanks to the dynamism of the labour market and the new labour market framework, the temporary employment rate fell sharply across all groups to 14.5% in the fourth quarter of 2022, a value very similar to that of the euro area (14.6%).
Lowered inequality levels and a reduced at-risk-of-severe-poverty rate
The Living Conditions Survey 2022, which presents the income for 2021, casts light on the situation of households in a year marked by recovery from the health crisis. In 2021, the at-risk-of-poverty rate was 1.8 points lower than before the pandemic. There was a significant reduction in the at-risk-of-severe-poverty rate, which only considers households with an income below 40% of the median, from 11.5% in 2019 to 8.8% in 2021. Against the backdrop of continued improvement in the labour market and public sector support measures to tackle the health and energy crises, the trend in income inequality indices is improving.