Social dialogue in Spain has played a fundamental role as a socio-economic governance mechanism since the country’s return to democracy in the second half of 1970s, both at tripartite and bipartite level.
The evolution of social dialogue during the last decades, however, has been far from being linear. Thus, the tripartite social dialogue has undergone through several phases influenced by changes in factors such as the economic cycle, the polítical “colour” of the goverments or the public policies addressed. As a consequence, the compared analysis of the agreements reached shows a great discontinuity and diversity in terms of scope, contents, implementation and outcomes (Monereo, 2015).
The main expressionf of the bipartite social dialogue is collective bargaining, which in Spain takes place at national, sector and company level. There are two dominant employers confederations: the Spanish Confederation of Employers and Industries (CEOE); and the Spanish Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises (CEPYME). Also, there are two major labour confederations: Workers Commissions (CCOO); and the General Union of Workers (UGT).
The evolution of collective bargaining has been more progressive in terms of scope and coverage since the 80s, reaching a maximum peak in 2008 –just before the onset of the Great Recession- with near six thousand collective agreements and 12 million workers affected. Also, since 2002 the most representative social partners at state level have signed various national agreements providing general guidelines on different topics for their development through collective bargaining.
Now, if we focus the analysis in the last decade it can be said that the “Great Recession” has challenged the traditional basis of the social dialogue.
It must be highlighted that the scale of the impact of this crisis was particularly strong in Spain compared with other European countries, especially in terms of job losses (3,48 million jobs lost between 2008 and 2013). The most important consequence of this shock was the sharp rise in the unemployment rate, which still remains at dramatic levels in spite of the economic recovery registered since 2014: 16,8 per cent at the begining of 2018, the second highest in the European Union (EU), after Greece.
 Source: Statistics of Collective Agreements, Ministry of Employment and Social Security
 Source: Eurostat, second quarters.
 Source: Eurostat, first quarter of 2018 (population from 15 to 74 years).