Social class boundaries in Bilbao
Across the river from Casco Viejo became a major urban expansion area. It was this area which eventually became the modern city centre accommodating the most important shopping, office and administrative functions as well as the most favoured residential areas of middle and upper-class households. This division of areas still exist today. Mining, industrial and port activities were concentrated along the river. In a gradual move towards the sea, they occupied almost the entire Left Bank of the Nervión by the late 1970s. Adjacent to this industrial expansion came the transformation of nearby villages which became working-class towns. The river became a sharp socio-economic boundary which still prevails (Beascoechea, 2003). While Left Bank municipalities like Barakaldo and Sestao became associated with industrial uses and working-class housing, the Right Bank was developed at a slower pace, mostly for the middle-classes. The former seaside resort of Getxo on the river mouth, for example, gradually became a dense middle and upper-middle class suburb.
Bilbao Employment Factors
The construction of The Guggenheim in Bilbao was not simply for the sake of having an iconic building; this was one answer in a quest to address a number of serious problems. The city suffered an extremely high unemployment rate, up to 25 per cent in the 1980’s. The traditional industries that the city boasted had become obsolete, and the city centre hosted a busy riverport plagued with severe traffic congestion. Other troubles included violence from extremist Basque separatists, urban deterioration, pollution and a poor public transport system. In order to address these problems the city created a new a subway line, new drainage and water/air clean-up systems and modified and modernised the airport; residential, leisure and business complexes were built in town, while new river and sea waterfronts, a seaport and industrial and technology parks were built away from the urban centre. The icing on the cake was the construction of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and additional cultural investments, such as a concert hall and incubator for young artists, to promote art and cultural tourism as a means of diversifying the economy and reducing unemployment. Bilbao is renowned for its economic turnaround through its thriving tourist industry and continuing manufacturing industry.
Government Spending in Bilbao
In recent years the government has achieved a complete overhaul of the economic climate of Bilbao. This was achieved through the transformation of the airport, the underground subway system, the tramline and the city’s port. All of these factors help to improve Bilbao’s economy from the slump that it suffered after General Franco’s dictatorship collapsed in the mid 1970’s. From the radical expansions of Bilbao’s transport network and the construction of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao now has a thriving tourist industry and is a central location of business meetings.