Spain Explained

Working in Spain

Last updated on March 27th, 2020 at 06:53 pm.

If you are not eligible to retire yet but are keen to live in Spain then unless you’ve won the lottery you are going to have to work here. Before you start handing in your notice in your home country, however, it is important to be aware that finding work in Spain, particularly now, is not going to be easy.

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Salaried employment

If you are not fluent in Spanish you will be at an immediate disadvantage, unless you want to work in a sector where it is a native speaker of another language that is most important.  You should also be aware that if you can find salaried employment in Spain, you are likely to earn quite a bit less that you would do in your home country. The wages in Spain are generally low and permanent employment is hard to come by.

It can be difficult to get a permanent contract (contrato indefinido) in Spain and you are much more likely to find yourself on a series of temporary contracts (contrato temporal). The cost to an employer of placing someone on a permanent contract is high due to social security contributions. It has also been difficult for the employer to terminate the contract, another factor that makes the temporary version more attractive.


Another alternative is to be self-employed (autonomo). This suites lots of people who are using the internet as their main source of income and are perhaps in the fortunate position of being able to continue working for existing employers in their home country whilst living oversees. This removes the barrier of language and means that you can attract a higher fee for your work. However, autonomo can also be quite expensive.

If you register as autonomo you must pay a monthly social security contribution which is currently around 300€. In addition to this you will need to pay for the services of a ‘gestor’ to do your account. This can be 40€ upwards a month depending upon the complexity of your accounts. Finally, there will be personal income tax to pay on the money you do earn. This is payable in three-monthly instalments and you will have to submit your accounts every quarter.

The good news is that by being autonomo you are contributing towards your pension and you and your dependents will receive free Spanish health care. By the end of June every year you must submit an annual resident tax declaration through which it will be checked whether you have any additional tax to pay or, in fact, if you might be due some tax back.

There are other alternatives such as setting up a partnership, forming a limited company or even setting up a public company. If any of these are your intention you will need the services of a good gestor to help ensure that you have the right paper work in place.

Catering for your own nationality

Many people coming to work in Spain do so to service the people of their own nationality already here. On the Costas in particular there are whole sections of the coast which are almost taken over by residents originating from other countries. Many of them will not have learnt Spanish and prefer to deal with people of the same nationality who speak their language. This traditionally, has meant a healthy source of work in restaurants, the building trade, dentists and other services.

The recession has meant that the work opportunities for this sector have become more limited and many have returned to their home country. Alongside the reduction in the client-base, Spain has also been tightening up around the services that many of the workers offered. For example, by introducing a limit on the amount of cash that might be used to pay for a product or a service.

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English language teaching

If you are a native English speaker, language teaching can be a good alternative, particularly if you already have some teaching experience or, ideally, an EFL qualification. However, teaching salaries are not great out here and resources can be limited even in ‘private’ schools. If you want to do lessons yourself you will find there is significant demand from a population who see English as a healthy addition to their CV. However, you will have to fit in a lot of lessons to give yourself a decent monthly wage if you have no other income source.

So, there are pros and cons with each alternative and it is definitely not the best time to be seeking employment anywhere, let alone Spain. However, with the skills, the determination and a little bit of forward planning there are still a trickle of people who come over to Spain and make a career of it.

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