Catalonia voted on
1 October 2017


One of the Four Motors for Europe

Catalonia and its capital, Barcelona, are the driving force of a large, dynamic and diverse economic area. Thanks to its crossroads location, it is the gateway to southern Europe, a crucial area in the Mediterranean, a bridge to the Maghreb region of northern Africa and a platform to Latin America. It represents 30% of Spanish foreign trade and it is a world-famous and popular tourism destination. The most important industrial sectors are food and beverages, biopharmaceutics, chemical, ICT and medical technology. Catalonia is a leading research actor – with 1.5% of Europe’s population, it receives 2.2% of European competitive funds and 3.5% of European Research Council grants. This places Catalonia third in the top ten of EU countries, and among the top five when including all participating countries (projects per ERC call for projects/million inhabitants).

Basic economic data

GDP (million €) 203,615 (ranks between Finland and Denmark) (2013)
GDP per capita (€) 27,698 (EU-28: 25,500)
ICP (annual variation) 2.9%
Exports (million €) 58,283 (26% of all Spanish exports; 65% of exports to the EU markets)
Imports (million €) 68,688
Openness ratio 61%
R&D expenditure 1.6% of GDP (3,104 million €) (2013)
Number of active companies 611,751 (2011)
Number of foreign companies 5,600 (2013). Catalonia hosts 38.6% of all foreign companies in Spain (2013).
Foreign investment 3,850.65 million € (2013) (Top 3 of FDI attraction in continental Europe first half 2013, Financial Times)


Port of Barcelona Biggest Mediterranean port in terms of goods volume, biggest European port in terms of cruise traffic (fourth biggest cruise base port in the world). Other important ports: Tarragona, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Palamós.
Barcelona’s harbour total transit (thousand tons) 41,487.4
Barcelona-El Prat Airport Operates more than 900 flights a day and connects with several destinations in America, Africa, Europe and Asia.
Airport number of passengers 35,145,176
Other airports in Catalonia Girona Airport, Reus Airport and Lleida-Alguaire Airport
Railway speed connections between most important Catalan cities and direct trains to Paris, Madrid and other Spanish destinations
Road network size 12,000 km, of which about 1,000 are motorways
Passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants 448

Catalan economy by sectors

Gross Value Added (million €) 191,476

Economy by sectors:

Agricultural holdings (1,000) 61 (2009)

Industry by sectors:

Tourism sector employs 11% of the population
Tourist establishments 6.06 (48% of which are hotels)
Bed-places (1,000) 748 (43.2% of which are hotels)
Number of foreign tourists 15,580,362 (2013)


Active Population (1,000) 3,735
Unemployment rate 22.7%

Employment by sectors:

Information society

Households with Internet Access 72%
E-government usage 45%


Barcelona is the sixth top-ranking European city for business, after London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Berlin, according to the European Cities Monitor 2011 (Cushman & Wakefield report).

World Mobile Capital: from 2012 to 2018 Barcelona hosts the GSMA Mobile World Conference and hosts activities to create a dynamic professional ecosystem for the mobile phone and its satellite industries.

Barcelona was named European Innovation Capital in March 2014, becoming the first European iCapital.

In 2011, 72 local leaders from all over the world selected Barcelona as their most admired city in Ernst & Young’s Cities for Citizens report.

Did you know?

  • Catalonia is home to technology pioneering centres such as Synchrotron ALBA and Barcelona Supercomputing Centre.
  • One in five Catalan companies exports goods.
  • 34% of total Spanish exports are from Catalonia.
  • Fashion is a big sector: Mango, Desigual and Custo are Catalan brands. Successful fashion events like 080 Barcelona Fashion are organized every year.
  • Two of the world’s top business universities are located in Catalonia: ESADE is among the top 4 MBA programmes outside the USA according to Business Week (2011), and IESE is ranked first business school in the world for executive education according to the Financial Times (2012). Other important business schools are EADA and the Barcelona GSE.

Source: Government of Catalonia (all data are from 2012 unless otherwise stated)

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