Working in Spain



Spain now recognises the need to be competitive in the global arena, after its status as a global power almost diminished. And despite the economic turmoil that greatly affected the country and the whole world, Spain's optimism and acceptance of change, as well as passion for a happy life, keeps it as a top expat destination. 

Dark clouds loomed over Spain when the 2007-2008 global financial crises pushed the economy into recession and left nearly half of the population unemployed. However, in 2015, the Spanish Gross Domestic Product grew by 3.2% which is the highest among European Union countries. Though still in the process of recovery, Spain keeps on showing remarkable growth and is now the 15th largest economy in the world by Purchasing Power Parity with a total GDP of USD 1.763 billion. Unemployment, on the other hand, is still high at 18.91% in the third quarter of 2016 but expats will find it alluring to work in a country whose resilience showed the rest of the world that backing down has never been and will never be an option. 

Leading Industries and Job Opportunities 

During the devastating economic downturn, Spain learned to significantly reduce its imports and increase exports. This strategy caused the export industry to boost and to contribute around 33% to the 2016 national GDP. Automotive industry is the second most exported industry and one of the largest employers in this country. In 2015, Spain was named as the eighth largest automobile producer in the world and the second leading car manufacturer after Germany and Europe. Spain’s economy also relies on the energy, agribusiness and tourism sectors. 

Though there is fierce competition and salaries are much lower compared to other EU nations, expats may still grab a slice of the job market by focusing on niche markets such as information technology or customer service or telesales requiring the ability to speak English and other European languages. If you are in luck, you may still find a job in the hotel or tourism industry, and if you are residing near the coastline you may find seasonal jobs in bars or beaches during the peak season when the influx of tourists is high. 

The Importance of Learn Spanish 

Options become limited if you do not speak Spanish. Saying "No hablo Español" may get you through in Spain at first, but it is important that you learn at least Castelian (Español) and practice it whenever possible. 

"I first came to Spain as a language assistant in a public school with the government’s “auxiliary de conversacion” program, which gives student visas to Americans without requiring any actual studies."- Rachel Graf, Expat in Madrid, Spain 

Also, there are instances where contracts are written in Spanish. It is extremely vital for expats to understand their contracts because in Spain, though initially employers may provide just a 3 to 9-month contract, make sure that you will get a long-term deal once you finish your first year. It is illegal for employers to renew it with a second short-term contract. 

Average Salary 

The Salario Mínimo Interprofesional (SMI) or minimum wage in Spain applies to all workers regardless of their gender, age and employment contract. The minimum wage changes and is set each year by the local Spanish government through a Royal Decree. Currently, the minimum salary in Spain increased by 8% and is at EUR 23.59 per day or EUR 707.60 per month. It is the ninth highest out of 22 other European countries that implement statutory minimum wages but still lower than in France where the minimum monthly salary is EUR 1,467. The average monthly salary, on the other hand EUR 2,846 whereas those employed in executive and managerial positions receive the highest average income of EUR 6,047 per month. 

Work Conditions and Business Hours 

The standard working week is 40 hours and an uninterrupted rest of one and a half days (two days for minors) is obligatory, but may vary from one occupation to another. Spanish labour rules prescribe that daily working hours are limited to nine hours. It also prescribes a minimum of 12 hours rest between working days. Overtime, horas extraordinarias, is also restricted by law to 80 hours per year. There are 14 national holidays (two of which are established locally) and 30 paid vacation days is the legal minimum, unless otherwise established through collective bargaining. 

Many shops, especially the smaller ones, still practice the traditional business hours of Spain from 10am to 2pm, opening again from 5 pm until 8 or 9 pm. Perhaps due to the economic change, business owners are now being more flexible by extending their opening hours or staying open through lunchtime. With more flexible times, banking transactions have become easier. Banks normally open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm, but some extend their hours to 5pm on Thursdays or open on Saturday mornings. 

The Spanish Social Security System 

Employers deduct monthly amounts for employee Social Security contributions for the Tesorería General de la Seguridad Social (Social Security General Treasury). It is the duty of the employer to register their expat employees with the Spanish Social Security Authorities and to share the cost of insurance contributions with them. In return to contributing to the Spanish Social Security, members will receive: 

  • Free Spanish healthcare
  • Maternity and Paternity benefits
  • Child Allowance
  • Work-related sickness or injury assistance
  • Invalidity Benefit
  • Retirement and Pension


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