Working in Spain
I was fortunate enough to move to Spain with an internet based job that I had been doing for a couple of years from the UK. However, within 6 months of arriving, I saw an opening in the market for property management (a market which is now swamped) and thinking I was now ‘in the land of opportunity’, gave up the job to start my own business. However, working in Spain for a living is no picnic and I had to sell my villa to survive – a gamble which took almost 3 years to pay off.
Most of my friends back home think my daily routine consists of a couple of hours of work and then laying sprawled out in the sun for the rest of the day. Not so, in fact I’ve never worked harder in my life.
Many of my emails are from people wanting to relocate but have to find work in Spain. Enquiries range from ‘have I got any work to offer’ to ‘how easily will I find work when I get there’. Unfortunately, the answer is – no, I don’t and its not easy AT ALL!
You may have visions of working in Spain as being flexible, laid back and with plenty of time to enjoy the sun. The reality is that there is very little in the way of jobs for expats in Spain – unless you speak Spanish and German then maybe you have a chance, and wages are low – even compared to the cost of living. The majority of shops and offices will require 2-3 languages, and much work in Spain is seasonal. Unemployment here is high, whilst wages are low – bear this in mind before deciding to relocate without enough money behind you to tide you over whilst search for work.
Generally there is a lot of building along the coast, which will require labourers and tradesmen, but even then you would need a basic knowledge of the language unless employed by British builders. Many immigrants are working in Spain for below the national average, especially on building sites, so even fit and hardworking British males cannot guarantee finding work that is reasonably paid. Working in Clubs, bars and restaurants, which can be year round but usually seasonal, is extremely hard work with long hours for little pay. Fortunately, holidaymakers often leave good tips!
Many of the jobs available are on a commission only basis, or a very low basic wage topped up with commissions. Industries such as travel and estate agents normally employ people on this basis. If you are working on Contract, your taxes and autonomo (health insurance), will be covered and you will be legally working in Spain – even if you don’t sell anything and earn a wage!
A large number of expats make the decision to start their own business but the paperwork involved can be complicated, the accounting and tax system totally alien, and employing someone a haven of laws, paperwork and headaches. Also be prepared for the fact that everything here is slow and when running a business of your own this can be very frustrating. Always seek the advice of your solicitor and accountant.
Working in Spain during the summer can be extremely difficult if you are not used to the heat – and even if you are, its not easy. Offices without central heating can also be extremely cold during winter - remember buildings here keep the heat out, and sitting still all day at a computer can leave you with numb fingers. For the first two years, Citrus Iberia’s office had neither air conditioning, nor central heating – in summer our brains turned to mush, and in winter our noses were running.
For those of us that have to work, being an expat in Spain can be stressful. You know that if your business fails, your commissions are low, or you can’t get a job at all, you will have no choice but to return to the UK. That is the last thing that many people want, so they struggle to survive but always in the back of your mind, you know that it could happen at any time. The Spanish social security system, although available on a pro rata basis, is unlikely to be enough to pay the average rent. For those who have managed to make a living ‘on the black’, even this wouldn’t be available to them.
People that own their property outright with no mortgage or rent to pay, occasional work from adverts placed in the local press usually provides enough for living expenses. There are hundreds of ads listed for tradesmen, cleaners, pool maintenance etc. For these people, living and working in Spain can be perfect. A bit of ‘cash in hand’ work here and there can provide enough to pay the bills and enjoy a good social life.
Of course its not all bad, the quality of life is better (when you actually get time to enjoy it), working contracts are very strict and workers well protected, and you will probably have a couple of hours siesta in the afternoon to go for a swim. However, I would strongly advise anyone who is thinking of relocating and will need to work in Spain, to make sure you have enough money to support yourself for at least 6 months.
Article Working in Spain, by D. Cooper