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Jobs, employment and working in Spain

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An increasing number of younger people are now moving to Spain and looking for work, following in the footsteps of ex-pat pensioners who started the trend more than 30 years ago.

A combination of low cost flights, a barrage of "home in the sun" TV programmes and general disillusionment with life in northern European countries is now bringing a new wave of work-age foreigners to the Iberian Peninsula and Spanish islands.

Finding a job

The lucky few secure full time employment in advance of their arrival in Spain. But the vast majority pitch up with a van load of their worldly goods, enough savings to tide them over for a few months and high hopes of finding work and a better life. Most discover the hard way that finding any kind of work (never mind interesting, well paid work) is far tougher than they imagined.

Generally speaking, wages are far lower in Spain compared with the UK and most other countries in northern Europe. And the competition to secure even the lowest-paid, most menial jobs can be fierce due to the burgeoning problem of illegal immigrants prepared to work for poor pay in bad conditions.

You're off to a good start if you're an EU citizen because you can work in Spain without a work permit. Unless its cash in hand, you will need your NIE (Numero Indentificacion Extranjero) Plenty of young Americans and Australians find their hopes of teaching English as a foreign language in Spain are dashed by intense competition from young Brits who don't have to overcome the same bureaucratic hurdles.

Employment prospects

If you have no particular job prospects in mind, it's well worth getting a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course under your belt as there's a huge demand for English teachers in language schools and from private industry and individuals in Spain.

Obviously mastering Spanish will broaden your job prospects considerably. And if you can speak another language such as German, French, Dutch, and lately Russian, you'll have a good chance of finding work in estate agencies, travel companies and offices in areas popular with foreign tourists and ex-pat home owners. Obviously its an excellent idea to learn Spanish which will widen the job net considerably.

Working on the Costa del Sol

If you're language skills are limited or non-existent you'll have the best chance of finding work in an area dominated by your fellow countrymen. This would have to be the Costa del Sol with popular English speaking areas such including Fuengirola, Mijas Costa, La Cala de Mijas, Riviera del Sol and even Marbella, although this is a much smaller market place and is based more on who you know.

Many Brits living in Spain prefer to rely on British trades people (mechanics, plumbers, builders etc) even though they often charge more than their Spanish counterparts. Do some thorough research on the area of Spain you intend to move to and if you plan to set up your own business targeting ex-pats, try to identify a niche market. The most popular costas are saturated with British bars all more or less supplying the same thing and many of them go bust a few months after opening. So try to come up with a product or service that the local ex-pat community wants but isn't getting at the moment.

Real estate jobs

For a number of years the real estate industry has without doubt been the biggest source of employment in Spain. As long as property prices kept rising, builders kept building and Agents kept selling. It was Win, Win for everyone, for a while anyway.

The credit crunch effect was devastating however and many of the big real estate agents on the Costa del Sol, who made such a killing have gone and jobs in real estate with them

There is hope though - if you fancy a job in sales. In places like Marbella and Puerto Banus there are always successful entrepreneurs trying to come up with the next big thing. If you're good at selling there are always good jobs available. If you're still set on a job in Real Estate, the upper end of the market seems to be a bit more insulated.

Construction jobs

Many areas of Spain are now seeing a huge rise in the number of half finished developments and other eye sores due to developers running out of money, no buyers because there's no finance anymore and no option for the banks other than to reposess or sit on the properties until they find a workable solution.

As a result the construction industry is a much harder place to find work now, even for the Spanish. At one time you would often see a myriad of nationalities all working on the same job, speaking 9 or ten languages between them.

Unemployment and property reposessions in places like Malaga are currently at record levels. If you work in the construction industry, take care before you come and try to make sure you have work lined up when you get here. Social security payments in Spain are not an option. You have to work for many  years, on a proper contract, and make many contributions, to qualify for any kind of unemployment benefit in Spain.

If you're young, presentable and hard-working you shouldn't have any trouble finding seasonal work in the bars and restaurants which line the beachfront promenades of much of coastal Spain.

Starting a business

Setting up your own business can be a bureaucratic nightmare so make sure you hire a good local 'gestor' or 'asesor' to guide you through the quagmire. These people are experts in steering ordinary mortals (Spaniards and foreigners alike) through Spain's famously challenging obstacle course of rules, regulations and legal landmines.

Click here for our Guide to starting a business in Spain

A few of Spains official job related resources

Instituto Nacional de Empleo
The web site of Spain's National Institute of Employment, with ample information on its services.

Oficina de Empleo de Espana
Public job offerings, oppositions, scholarships, and more.

Spanish Employment Bourse