The job market in Spain

working in spain
Updated 2023-07-23 11:37

The Spanish labor market offers a range of opportunities for expats. Spain has long been a favored destination for foreigners due to its pleasant climate, rich cultural heritage and vibrant lifestyle. However, it is important to note that the Spanish job market can be competitive, and fluency in Spanish is often required for many positions.

The labor market in Spain has gone through significant changes in recent years. Spain was severely affected by the global financial crisis of 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to high unemployment rates and a fragile job market. However, the situation has been improving over time. In June 2023, 20.86 million people were registered as employed. This represents the highest number of workers in Spain since records began.

Job opportunities in Spain

One of the sectors that attract expats is the tourism industry. Spain is known for its world-class tourist destinations, such as Barcelona, Madrid and the Balearic Islands. This sector offers a variety of job opportunities, including hospitality, tour guiding and event planning.

Another growing sector for expats is technology and innovation. With the rise of tech start-ups and incubators in cities like Barcelona and Valencia, there is a demand for skilled professionals in areas such as software development, data analysis and digital marketing.

For expats with teaching qualifications, there is a high demand for English language teachers across Spain. Many public and private schools offer English language courses, making it a viable option for expats looking to work in the education sector.

Additionally, multinational companies with a presence in Spain often hire expats in various roles, especially in management and international business. These companies seek individuals with expertise in specific industries to help facilitate cross-border operations and establish a strong global presence.

While the labor market for expats in Spain offers attractive opportunities, it is important to be aware of some challenges. The Spanish employment system can be bureaucratic, and navigating the visa and work permit process may require patience and persistence. Economic fluctuations and high unemployment rates in certain regions can also impact job availability.

If you're applying for a position in a big city such as Madrid or Barcelona, your application could be one of several hundred. The competition can be fierce.

As an expat seeking employment in Spain, solid professional qualifications, a good track record and excellent language skills will stand you in good stead. If you speak several languages and are an English, French or German native, you will always be in an excellent position to gain employment. However, it may not be the profession you trained for, and the salary could be lower than your expectations.

Fluency in Spanish is often an essential prerequisite to finding a job in Spain, except in some large international companies or start-ups where Spanish is not the working language. Unskilled, seasonal or agriculture jobs do not require Spanish fluency.


If you have professional qualifications in your native country, check whether they are recognized in Spain.

UK citizens and Brexit

While the United Kingdom was a member of the EU, UK nationals could work in Spain visa-free. Following the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, UK citizens no longer have an automatic right to live and work in the country.

One of the most significant changes in a post-Brexit world covers British citizens working in Spain. They must hold a valid Spanish work visa to gain employment, which has to be obtained from a national embassy or consulate before arriving in Spain.

However, securing employment may be challenging. Prospective employers who want to employ you must demonstrate that a Spanish or EU citizen could not fill the role. To increase your chances of finding work, check Spain's shortage occupation list, a regularly updated register of professionals in short supply in the country.

Note that these rules do not apply to UK citizens who were legal residents before 2021 and remain legal residents.

Good to know:

You may have to adapt to the Spanish labor market. Many foreigners start with underpaid jobs, internships or call center positions, then move on to better job opportunities. Sadly, it's not unusual for well-trained professionals to start internship positions, even in their thirties, to get their foot into the labor market.

Opportunities in different regions of Spain

Most of the best-paid opportunities in Spain are found in big cities such as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. Consequently, they attract large numbers of foreigners.

Coastal regions such as Alicante, Almeria and Malaga have lots of seasonal jobs in bars, restaurants and hotels. Many local and international students apply for these positions.

Non-EU citizens and seasonal work in Spain

Seasonal work is a good way to experience another country to see whether you would like to live there long-term at some time in the future.

To carry out seasonal work in Spain, you will need the following:

  • A work and residence permit
  • A work and residence visa

Before you apply for your work and residence visa, your employer has to obtain a work permit from the Provincial Aliens Affairs Office or an official Department of Labor office in the autonomous community where you'll be working.

Once the work permit has been authorized, you must apply for your work permit and residence visa at the Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.

In addition to the work permit and residence visa, other criteria will have to be followed:

  • The employer must provide accommodation in conditions of adequate dignity and hygiene;
  • Your travel costs are covered;
  • You undertake to return to your country of origin when the contract is finished.

Labor conditions in Spain

While Spain may be one of Europe´s biggest economies, its average salaries are not among the highest on the continent. The average salary in the European Union is 20% higher than in Spain. 

According to the Annual Survey of Salary Structure from the INE (National Institute of Statistics), the average gross salary per year in Spain is 25,896.82 euros.

Currently, the highest monthly salary in Spain can be found in the Community of Madrid (2,135 euros per month), followed by the Basque Country (2,103 euros per month) and Navarra (1,969 euros per month).

The typical working day in Spain can start between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and conclude around 8:00 p.m. This includes a lunch and siesta break of around three hours. However, note that not every company observes the siesta, especially international firms.

The minimum working conditions in Spain

In Spain, minimum working conditions ensure employees have a fair and safe work environment. These conditions encompass several crucial aspects contributing to employees' well-being and protecting their rights.

Minimum wage - every worker in Spain is entitled to a minimum wage, which the government sets. This ensures that employees receive a decent income to sustain their basic needs and contribute to their overall quality of life.

Working hours - a maximum of 40 hours per week calculated as an average over a year. Local agreements may mean there is an irregular distribution of hours during the year. Overtime is voluntary in Spain and, by law, cannot exceed 80 hours per year. The maximum hours of ordinary work per day is 9 hours.

Health and safety - employers have to take all necessary steps to ensure the workplace is safe and does not create risks to the health and safety of employees. If that's not possible, they must make sure the risks are minimized.

Holidays and annual leave - paid annual vacation cannot be less than 30 days a year.

Maternity and partner leave - maternity leave lasts 16 weeks, while partner leave (used to be called paternity leave) also lasts 16 weeks.

Other benefits include sickness and disability leave and time off because of a second-degree relative's death, accident or serious illness, hospitalization or surgical operation without hospitalization.

Public holidays in Spain

Here is a list of national public holidays in Spain:

  • Epiphany - January 6th
  • Good Friday - the Friday before Easter Sunday (changes every year)
  • Labour Day - May 1st
  • Assumption Day - August 15th
  • National Day of Spain - October 12th
  • All Saints' Day - November 1st
  • Constitution Day - December 6th
  • Immaculate Conception - December 8th
  • Christmas Day - December 25th

Employee perks in Spain

When it comes to employing top talent, companies in Spain offer a range of attractive perks and benefits such as health insurance, life insurance and pension schemes. Employers have also broadened their offerings to help employees maintain a good work-life balance. This is also to encourage company loyalty, especially amongst younger workers who want to be more mobile and flexible than older employees. These include:

  • Tax savings benefits such as public transport tickets, professional training/courses and stock options;
  • Discounts for gym memberships, restaurant meals and shopping;
  • Health and wellness programs, including yoga classes, healthy eating habits, improving heart health and reducing stress;
  • Work-life balance initiatives such as flexible schedules, extra maternity and partner leave on top of the legal requirements and additional paid time off for family reasons.

Other perks can include car leases, company mobile phones and professional development such as language courses and new technology training.

Good to know:

Some companies try to reduce their salary bill by hiring lots of interns. It is not uncommon to see more interns than full-time employees in some companies. If you're of intern age, this can be a good way to start your career and make contacts.

Work contracts in Spain

Indefinite contracts (contrato indefinido) are contracts with no fixed end-by date and can be full-time or part-time. Among the features of this type of contract are:

  • Severance pay for a justified cause is 20 days per year worked. If the dismissal is declared unfair, the company must pay 33 days for every year worked.
  • The contract may be drawn up verbally or in writing for full-time or part-time employment.

The future of Spain's labor market

In 2021, the Spanish government unveiled what many call the most ambitious modernization plan in recent Spanish history. Spain 2050 is a 675-page document that aims to help turn the country into a leading competitive economy by reforming national policy areas such as taxes, the environment, health, pensions and employment. Among the objectives for the Spanish labor market are:

  • To reach an employment rate of 80% within three decades;
  • To reduce the unemployment rate to 7%;
  • To cut today's youth unemployment rate from 40% to 14%
  • To raise the employment rate of women, young people and people over 55 years of age;
  • To put an end to the gender pay gap - going from the current 14% to 10% in 2030, to 5% in 2040 and 0% in 2050;
  • To encourage legal immigration.

The planned increase in employment rates will take place in stages. For example, the employment rate will increase to 65% in 2030, 75% in 2040 and 82% in 2050. Meanwhile, the youth unemployment rate would drop to 30% in 2030, then 21% and 14% in the following decades. Also, the employment rate of those aged 55 to 64 would progress to 68%.

The document also proposes changes to the hours worked per person to align with the levels of the leading European economies. The suggestion is to get to 37 hours by 2030, 36 by 2040 and 35 hours by 2050.

Opportunities for foreign professionals in Spain

As the country releases itself from the pandemic's clutches, the current labor market conditions mean plenty of job openings exist. What's more, new opportunities are always appearing. Spain is eager to continue with its current high employment rate and, with its Spain 2050 document, has a blueprint for moving forward.

Useful links:

Ministry of Labour and Social Economy

Oficina empleo - National Agency for Employment

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