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How to find work

When looking for a job in Spain, it’s good to arm yourself with a certain degree of realism.

The Spanish job market is not the easiest one in which to find work; the unemployment rate, although dropping, is running at over 16% and, if you are not a fluent Spanish speaker, then you are cutting down your options. Moreover, due to Spanish labour laws, an increasing number of employment contracts in Spain are temporary. But, if you have the right information and know what type of work you want to look for, then it is certainly still more than possible to find work.

Are you fluent in Spanish?

If the answer to this question is yes, then great news: the whole of the Spanish job market is open to you. Whilst unemployment rose significantly following the economic downturn in Spain, there have been slow and steady improvements in the past couple of years. Overall, unemployment rates have fallen from 23.6% in 2014 to 16.4% in 2017 and rates of unemployment for those under 25 (arguably the most significant problem the country is facing) fell from 51.6% to 36.6% between the same years.

A word of caution: only fluency in the language will do. A basic working knowledge of the language that would help you live in Spain is not enough to gain entry into most jobs or professions.

There have been upturns in some professions, notably in the IT and finance sectors, and although employers are still in the position of being very choosy with candidates, there is work out there.

In addition, there are sectors experiencing shortages in staff. These include:

  • Engineering
  • Computing
  • Medicine and health care
  • Education (teaching including universities)

The Spanish government also maintains a list of shortage occupations per region that can be found here:

What if I don’t speak Spanish?

Your options are more limited if you don’t speak Spanish but there remains a considerable amount of work for English-speaking people in the country, in large part due to the tourist industry. Sectors you may consider include:

  • Tourism and hospitality (such as holiday representatives)
  • Catering and bar work
  • Construction
  • Golfing (caddies and golf pros, although a basic command of Spanish will help with gaining work in this area)
  • Au pair work
  • Water sports and marine jobs (diving, surfing and windsurfing instructors, sailing crew maintenance)
  • Teaching English

There is a huge demand for teaching English in Spain, but you will in all likelihood require a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification. It will be best for you to gain this before coming to Spain. For more information, visit TESOL, the Spanish association of English Language teachers.

It’s also worth thinking outside of the box a little and considering jobs you may not have considered at home. For example, English newspapers require writers in Spain and expat radio stations are always looking for English-speaking DJs, presenters, journalists, researchers, and sales people.

According to the Glass Ceiling Index, Spain is ranked 15th in the world for the best countries for women to work in. It’s position is several places above average, ahead of both the U.S. (in position 19) and the UK (25).

Where to look for work

A significant number of jobs are never advertised in Spain. This is because a great deal of work is obtained through word-of-mouth and networking. Try to make use of any contacts you have in Spain already: friends and family who may be able to give you some useful contacts and networking sites such as LinkedIn. Speculative applications are also an incredibly successful route into finding work in Spain. If you know the occupation that you wish to follow and have researched the employers or companies that you would like to work for, contact them; it’s a worthwhile use of your time.

That said, many jobs are advertised and here are a few suggestions for where to start your search:


Most job vacancies appear in the Sunday editions of major newspapers. However, jobs do appear on a daily basis in many smaller papers. These English-speaking papers have job sections:

You should also look in the classified sections of local papers for the region you aim to move to. 

Recruitment agencies

There are numerous agencies across Spain, many of them specialised, but it is a good idea to start with the Spanish branch of well-known agencies such as Adecco, Manpower and Hays recruitment.

Public health care

Whether you are employed or self-employed, if you are making social security (income tax) contributions as a resident of Spain, it’s likely you will be eligible to access the public health care system. You can find out more about how the system works in our guide to Health insurance in Spain.

Lower salaries in comparison to many EU countries and longer working hours are the norm for many Spanish employees. Setting realistic expectations should be part of your thinking when moving to Spain. You may well get a better quality of life in terms of the weather and the environment ­— Spain’s famously relaxed attitude to many of daily life’s aggravations is mañana, mañana — but in return your pocket may be a little lighter.

Many people are turning to self-employment or starting their own business rather than working as a paid employee. Writing for the Barcelona Metropolitan, Sam Mednick sees that, “In response to both the low incomes and the crisis, more and more entrepreneurs have come out of the woodwork to wage their bets. This has resulted in another booming professional sector — the world of startups and technology.”

Self-employed workers (autónomos) have to register with both the Social Security Office in Spain and also the Spanish Tax Office. Typically, both quarterly and annual returns are expected.

Anyone with financial affairs in Spain, be they resident or not, must have an NIE number. This is essentially a foreigner’s tax identification number and must be obtained from a Spanish police station (Comisaría) in their foreigners' department (Oficina de Extranjeros). An NIE number is also the first of many requirements for anyone intending to set up their own company in Spain. In addition, anyone intending to be self-employed must apply for a work permit at the Spanish Consulate in their country of origin.

Visas and work permits

Foreign nationals from countries such as the U.S., Canada and Australia will need to gain both a residence visa and a Spanish work permit in advance of moving to and working in Spain. EU nationals can work in Spain without the requirement of a visa or permit.

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