We're always looking for ways to make better. Have an idea? See something that needs fixing? Let us know!

Spain: Sources and Quality of Manpower
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Sources and QUality of Manpower


Beginning in 1982, major changes in the military personnel system were introduced in an effort to deal with the chronic problem of overstaffing, to modernize recruitment procedures, and to improve the quality of education and training. The existing officer complement was far in excess of the number required by the new tables of organization adopted in the extensive reorganization of the army. A total of 41,328 soldiers were in the ranks of sergeant through lieutenant general in 1986; these were scheduled to be reduced to 35,213 by 1991. In 1986 a further 4,200 officers were in the active reserves, and 2,000 were in a special status called transitional active reserve, a voluntary category that had been created to induce officers to forego their final two years of active duty while retaining full pay.

The total number of trained reserves was reported to be 1,085,000, as of 1987. These personnel, who were considered reservists until the age of thirty-eight, theoretically would be available to form brigades needed to fill out incomplete divisions in an emergency. Reservists did not, however, attend periodic refresher courses or undergo retraining.

The mandatory retirement age for general officers, which had been between sixty-six and seventy prior to 1981, had been reduced to sixty-five -- after conversion to active reserve status on full pay at age sixty-two to sixty-four -- as of 1986. Active duty for majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels, and their naval equivalents was to end about five years earlier than it had previously, at age fifty-seven to sixty. In spite of these changes, it was evident that the number of army generals still would be excessive (143 in 1991) in relation to the small number of units at the level of division and brigade.

Military promotions historically had been based almost exclusively on seniority; with few exceptions, years in grade and age were the determining factors. Military officers knew with considerable certainty when they would advance in rank and whether or not vacancies existed for them at the new grade. Reforms in the promotion system, giving far greater weight to professional merit, to previous assignments, and to special training, were proposed as early as 1984, but only in 1987 was specific legislation introduced to modify the procedure.

Reforms of the salary system also were introduced to raise and to simplify military wage scales, making them consistent with the civil service wage structure. When the new system was introduced in 1985, it resulted in pay increases of between 15 percent (for sergeants) and 33 percent (for lieutenant generals). Total pay and allowances at the rate of exchange prevailing in 1988 would be the equivalent of US$19,300 annually for a colonel, US$14,800 for a captain, and US$10,000 for a sergeant. No changes were proposed in the policy of paying conscripts only nominal wages, which amounted to only US$5 a month in 1988.

Also included in the reform legislation of 1984 were a number of important changes affecting recruitment and conscription. For the first time, conscientious objectors were recognized officially and offered the possibility of alternate social service of eighteen to twenty-four months. Obligatory military service, previously set at fifteen months for the army and the air force, and at eighteen months for the navy, was to be reduced over a three-year period to twelve months for all services. A gradual shift in the call-up age, from twenty-one years to nineteen years, also was initiated. Voluntary recruits to all services would in the future serve for sixteen months rather than eighteen months (twenty-four months for the navy). In categories requiring specialized training, enlistments of two to three years would be required. The reason for these changes was the attempt to achieve an annual intake of 200,000 conscripts and 36,600 enlistees in 1986. The total number of young men qualified for military service would exceed these totals combined by an estimated 71,000. The conscripts would be concentrated in the army and the navy. Only 4,700 would be assigned to the air force, which expected to attract 16,000 volunteers each year.

The military conscription system was relatively unpopular; but the government vowed that it would be maintained. In a 1987 public opinion poll, 76 percent of those queried believed that some form of service should be rendered to the state; however, only 17 percent felt that the service should be in the armed forces. The government's position was believed to be influenced by the high rate of unemployment among young men and the added cost of depending on voluntary enlistments. Moreover, the government was apprehensive that an all-professional army might be less accountable to civil authority.

Although the 1978 Constitution gives each citizen the right to serve in the armed forces, regardless of sex, the full integration of women had been met by strong resistance. About 8,000 women were included in a uniformed army auxiliary health corps, but they retained civilian status. A small number of women auxiliaries in the air force and the navy served in certain administrative jobs. As of early 1988, this situation was on the brink of change as the result of a royal decree providing for the progressive incorporation of women under equal conditions with males. Initially, women were to be permitted to apply for enlistment in the legal, the auditing, the engineering, the health, and the veterinary corps of the three services. Access to additional corps would be allowed as necessary organizational adaptations were completed. No action had been taken to open the service academies to women, although individual legal suits had been instituted by women seeking admission.

Data as of December 1988

Last Updated: December 1988

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Spain was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

Spain Main Page Country Studies Main Page

Section 167 of 183


Click any image to enlarge.

National Flag

(€) Euro (EUR)
Convert to Any Currency


Locator Map