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WORKING IN SPAIN

Workers in Spain earn 20 percent less than EU average

Despite being one of the largest economies in Europe, Spain may not be a good place to work for those looking to be well compensated as figures reveal workers earn a lot less than some of their European neighbours.

atm in Spain
Spaniards earn 20 percent less than the EU average. Photo: Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke / Pixabay

People working in Spain earn, on average, €1,751 per month. This is 20 percent less or €443 less than the EU average of €2,194, according to human resource giant Adecco and their monitor on wages, published Tuesday.

Life in Spain is getting more and more expensive due to soaring inflation and rising energy costs, but despite having the highest average salary in history, people in Spain can’t afford as much as they did 13 years ago, due to diminishing purchasing power.

Within the EU, Adecco reported that 15 countries have wages lower than Spain, and 11 have higher. 

Nine European countries have average salaries above €2,500 per month, while in Spain the average salary does not even reach €2,000. This is the case in Finland (€2,603), Sweden (€2,623), Austria (€2,788), Belgium (€2,830), the Netherlands (€2,883), Ireland (€2,920), Germany (€3,003), Denmark (€3,458 ) and Luxembourg (€3,502).

In Germany for example, employees earn on average 42 percent more than in Spain, meaning that workers in Spain would have to work 20 months, almost two years, to be able to earn the same as a German.

There is more than €1,250 difference between what those in Germany are paid and what those in Spain are paid.

On the other hand, there are several EU countries with salaries less than in Spain. Those with average salaries of €1,100 are mostly found in Eastern Europe, with Bulgaria being the EU country with the lowest remuneration of just €562 per month.

This is followed by Romania (€718), Hungary (€798), Poland (€833), Croatia (€863), Latvia (€892), Slovakia (€977), Lithuania (€1,007), Greece (€1,034), Estonia (€1,053) and the Czech Republic (€1,078).

Spain forms part of the middle group that earn more than €1,100 per month but less than €2,500 per month. Those EU countries with salaries similar to Spain include Portugal (€1,106), Cyprus (€1,309), Malta (€1,329), Slovenia (€1,417), Italy (€2,074) and France (€2,446). However, there are of course wide gaps between these countries too.  

Compared to its nearest neighbours, Spanish workers earn 58 percent more than those in Portugal or €645 more per month, but 28.4 percent less than those in France or €695 less each month. 

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WORKING IN SPAIN

‘Spain must invest in Spaniards rather than turning to migrants’: EU work chief

The European Commission’s head for jobs and social rights has said Spain “must first find a solution for young people, women and the elderly” with regard to its labour market and “see later if they need immigrants”.

'Spain must invest in Spaniards rather than turning to migrants': EU work chief

The European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit recently took part in a summit on job security in Bilbao, where he spoke with Spain’s Labour Minister and Second Deputy Prime Ministers Yolanda Díaz about the state of affairs for workers in the country. 

When discussing potential solutions to Spain’s high unemployment rate, Schmit explained “I would not exclude immigration, but when I analyse the data, I see youth unemployment of 30 percent, more than double the European average”.  

“The priority for Spain must be to invest in its people,” Schmit continued.

“They must first look at their labour market and find a solution for young people, women and the elderly. They will see later if they need immigrants”.

Despite high unemployment levels which currently amount to three million people, Spain has worker shortages in a wide variety of sectors. 

READ ALSO: The ‘Big Quit’ hits Spain despite high unemployment and huge job vacancies

The Spanish government recently changed its immigration laws to make it easier for employers to hire non-EU citizens for sectors with shortages, from waiters to plumbers, whereas previously recruiters were required to prove that they couldn’t find an EU candidate for the job and the skills shortage list was limited and outdated. 

READ MORE: How spain is making it easier for foreigners to work in Spain

In 2023, Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration wants to hire 62,000 third-country workers to cover an array of construction and trades jobs, something the country’s Labour Ministry has not agreed to yet. 

READ ALSO – EXPLAINED: Spain’s plans to recruit thousands of foreigners for construction and trade jobs

The government also recently passed its new startups law to attract foreign investors, digital nomads and talent to the country.

Could Spaniards not be trained to do these jobs as Schmit alludes to? Currently, low wages and unstable working conditions are dissuading many locally trained professionals from staying.

This includes almost 20,000 doctors who have moved abroad in recent years as salaries in other European countries are significantly higher than in Spain, with a newly qualified doctor’s salary only around €1,600 gross per month.

Staff shortages in the health sector are not helped by the fact that foreigners with non-EU qualifications wait for several years for their qualifications to be recognised in Spain through an unnecessarily laborious administrative process known as homologación. This applies to a number of regulated fields, from engineering to dentistry, all of which face shortages. 

READ MORE: How Spain is ruining the careers of thousands of qualified foreigners

Spain’s Socialist-led government has partly addressed some of its labour market issues by reducing the rate of temporary contracts and increasing the minimum wage (SMI), but voices within the opposition have accused Sánchez’s administration of “dressing up” the dire reality.

When asked about the rise in minimum wage, Schmit said that he believes “it will not mean significant changes for Spain, which already has a tradition of updating the minimum wage on a regular basis… but the government must take into account factors such as the cost of living and the economic context”.

“Spain must question whether the SMI allows for a decent life or creates poor workers. Its economy cannot be supported by low wages and low productivity,” he continued.  

When asked if salaries and inflation have to go hand in hand, Schmit argued “wages must be set by collective bargaining. We are experiencing very high inflation because of the explosion in energy and food prices. If there is a large lag between wages and inflation, there will be an impact on demand and the risk of recession will increase”.

With regards to pensions, Schmit explained: “I don’t think that pensions are very high in Spain and if you leave a gap between the rise in benefits and inflation, you can create a situation of poverty among the elderly. Spain has a disadvantage in that it has one of the fastest-ageing societies… The solution is to modernise the economy to make it more productive and attract more people to the job market”.  

Despite these issues, the commissioner acknowledged that the Spanish labour market has surprised many with its resistance this year. “Employment will remain strong if there is no deep recession,” he said.  

“The national plan for access to European funds has a good combination of measures to invest in green energy, digitisation, education and public employment services… Spain experienced its economic miracle due to the real estate boom, which exploded, and now it has to transform to go in the right direction”.

According to a report carried out by human resources company Hays on work trends in Spain in 2022, 77 percent of Spaniards surveyed said they would change jobs if they could. Furthermore, 68 percent of them confessed that they are actively looking for another job and the main reason they argue is to get a better salary. 

According to Eurostat data from January 2021, 37 percent of Spain’s workforce is overqualified, 17 percent higher than the EU average.

READ ALSO: Why more people than ever in Spain are overqualified for their jobs

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