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Bilbao City

Member since: 
September 2016

Radical Change

Towards the end of the 20th century, as a result of industrial restructuring, Bilbao had to make a radical change to its economy. After years of economic uncertainty, the city recovered its dynamic nature and became a service city, totally committed to environmental and urban regeneration. Industrial land became the space for internationally awarded spatial transformation (Abandoibarra) that has positioned Bilbao as a powerful tourist destination.

Although many other factors have contributed to this regeneration and profound change, the great emblem of this "New Bilbao" is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry. Over 25 years Bilbao has gradually been shedding its industrial skin and rehabilitating emblematic areas of the city. The recovery of the historic town centre after the brutal floods of 1983 is one of the great achievements made. Today, the Old Quarter (Casco Viejo) is a first class tourist area that preserves the traditions and identity of the city. Be sure to visit this area, where it is essential to stroll, mingle and enjoy some local tapas (pintxos) washed down with good wine.

In addition to the brilliance of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao titanium, the transformation of Bilbao is environmental as well as urban which is displayed in the recovery of the estuary, the soul of the city and silent witness to its history, the backbone for communication and trade. The cost of this operation was 800 million euros, some 6 times greater than the construction of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and was financed through an increase in the rates for water consumption.

The clean-up of these estuary waters has enabled Bilbao and its residents to live looking towards this waterway and for the most important urban projects to be built on banks that have become some of the most sophisticated spaces in Europe, where buildings and works by the best architects and artists in the world are found, magnificent riverside walks where you can also enjoy a host of leisure, sporting and cultural activities.

Completing the strategic project for the transformation of Bilbao are the new bridges, the metro, airport and tram. These infrastructures, many of them designed by renowned architects (Norman Foster, Santiago Calatrava, etc.), form an excellent mobility network, connecting Bilbao and its neighbourhoods with surrounding communities and also internationally.

Social Economy

In Bilbao there are 3,500 active third sector organizations. The distribution is as follows : 57% (2,000 firms) has its headquarters in Bizkaia Province (of which Bilbao is the capital city and in which 53.31% of the Bizkaian social institutions are concentrated), 29% is located in Gipuzkoa Province and the remaining 14% is located in Araba Province (500). 

Concerning employment, the third sector in the Basque Country employs around 36,000 people that provides paid work (part time and full time work) and includes the participation of around 125,000 volunteers.

In 2013, the Basque economic volume of the sector was of 1,451 million euros, which is equivalent to 2.2% of GDP of the Basque Country. 

Recent Steps on Social Economy

Basque Parliament has recently adopted a law that unifies under same standards the operation and principles of non-profit organisations working in the third sector (3,500 organisations) - working on the promotion of social solidarity, as well as on the promotion of social participation of people, social rights inclusion and social cohesion.

In this sense, the Third Sector of the Basque country now has a legal framework that, among other things, regulates its participation in the design of social policies that the Basque institutions shall implement in the next few years.

According to the ''White Paper'' of the Third Sector located in the Basque Country - which is a research done by the Observatory of Bizkaia- the number of users of the services provided by social entities has increased in the last three years, as well as the number of people who work in this field (especially those related to people in situation or risk of vulnerability and exclusion). This increase is related to the social impact generated by the economic crisis.

Regarding Bilbao City Hall Government Plans related to the third sector, they point to the collaboration with the third sector in terms of the:

  • Assignment for rent of municipal housing entities to the third sector, in order to host vulnerable communities.
  • Development and maintenance of a collaborative model between the social initiative and the public administration.
  • Social Affairs Municipal Committee.

Concerning the cooperation with other organisations, Bilbao City highlights the cooperation with the university, in which the sharing of people and resources is a reality. In fact, the Third Sector and the university develop joint research activities, awareness activities and exchange know how, as well as the academic education.