Spain Labor Market

Strong growth in the economy created many new jobs from the mid-1990s and well into the 2000s. In 2007, unemployment was at a record low of 7.6 percent for Spain, which was nevertheless high internationally. During the 2008 economic crisis, unemployment rose. The situation worsened gradually and by the end of 2013 it reached just over 26 percent, while youth unemployment was a full 51 percent. Most jobs disappeared in the construction sector.

In 2015, unemployment began to decline as a certain recovery could be seen in the economy. In the summer of 2016, it fell below 20 percent for the first time in seven years, which is still a high figure. Subsequently, unemployment has continued to decline, albeit at a relatively slow rate. By the end of 2018, it had fallen to just over 14 percent.

Almost half of the labor force is women, which is more than the EU average. However, unemployment is higher among women and they earn on average less than men do. In addition, wage differences between men and women are increasing.

During the crisis, more and more Spaniards have gone to other countries to find jobs. The number of part-time jobs has also increased. According to official statistics from the beginning of 2014, only 7 percent of all new hires in 2013 were full-time permanent jobs. In more than one in ten households, all family members of working age lacked registered work. In about 700,000 households, members have gone without work for so long that they are no longer entitled to unemployment benefits. As many as four employees were employed on temporary contracts in 2018.

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of Spain, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.

Spain Population

Labor protection has long been strong. Most people who work, especially in the public sector, have permanent employment, while about one-third of the workforce has fixed-term contracts where working conditions are often worse. Nearly two-thirds of temporary workers are immigrants. Several reforms have been implemented to address the problem of temporary contracts.

In September 2010, Parliament approved a major labor market reform that would increase mobility in the partially heavily regulated Spanish labor market by facilitating companies to terminate permanent employees and reduce severance pay to layoffs. In addition, the salaries of some public employees were reduced.

The reform faced strong opposition from the unions that carried out a general strike. In July 2012, hundreds of thousands of people across the country demonstrated against, among other things, a Christmas pay bonus for public employees. It was the first time the country’s six major unions carried out a joint protest action against the government. However, the once powerful trade unions have lost influence. In 2017, only about 15 percent of the labor force was unionized. During the economic crisis, the four largest unions together lost nearly 600,000 members.

The largest trade union is Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), which has historically been close to the Communist Party but which has become more independent since the 1990s. The second largest is the Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), formerly linked to the Socialist Party (PSOE).

With the exception of the national police and the military, workers are free to form trade unions, conclude collective agreements and strike.

In Spain many people work in the informal sector. The government has tried to curb this by significantly raising the fines for employers who employ black labor. However, workplace checks are performed only occasionally.

The minimum wage would be increased by 22 percent from January 2019 from EUR 736 to EUR 900.



14.7 percent (2019)

Youth Unemployment

33.2 percent (2019)



PP loses majority of Congress

December 20

The PP receives just under 29 percent of the 123 votes out of the 350 seats in the congressional elections, followed by the PSOE receiving 22 percent and 90 seats, Podemos 21 percent and 69 seats and Ciudadano’s 14 percent and 40 seats. The PP thus loses its majority in Congress. The turnout is around 73 percent.

Equal battle before the parliamentary elections

The campaign for the parliamentary elections begins formally on December 3. But a first TV debate is already held a few days before between the leaders of PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos, where all promise radical changes in politics. Prime Minister Rajoy, however, chooses not to attend. In an interview the same day, he promises lower social security contributions to employers who give his staff permanent employment instead of temporary. He also promises relief in the tough austerity policy as well as efforts to fight corruption. The Government Party’s strategy is to press the Prime Minister’s political experience in contrast to other party leaders who are relatively new to their posts. Rajoy, however, does not boast any high personal popularity figures. In opinion polls, PP is in first place, but Ciudadanos, PSOE and Podemos all follow closely with a voter support of around 20 percent. However, the percentage of uncertain voters is high.


The Catalan process gets a homework in the Constitutional Court

The Catalan Parliament is voting for the region to launch a process to “free” itself from the rest of Spain within 18 months. Prime Minister Rajoy appeals to the Constitutional Court to try to stop this. The Court finds that Catalonia’s actions are contrary to the Spanish constitution, as the regional government intends to make a decision that affects the whole country. The judges also say that Catalan politicians risk prosecution if they continue the process.

The European Commission warns of high Spanish budget deficits

According to the European Commission, neither the Spanish government nor 2015 or 2016 will be able to comply with the rules that stipulate that the eurozone deficits in the state budget must not exceed 3 percent. According to the European Commission’s forecasts, the deficit will rise to almost 5 percent in 2015 and land around 3.6 percent in 2016.


The Constitutional Court is given new powers

The Spanish Congress approves measures that allow the Constitutional Court to impose fines or suspend those who do not comply with its ruling. The new rules will come into force even before the Spanish parliamentary elections in December.


Catalan politicians are accused of abuse of power

Catalonia’s supreme court calls on Regional President Artur Mas and two of his colleagues to appear in court. The Court accuses them of abusing power and embezzling public funds in connection with the referendum on Catalan independence at the end of 2014. The regional government considers that the legal process against the three is politically justified.

Independence advocates are advancing in Catalonia

September 27th

Region elections are held in Catalonia. Ahead of the election, regional president Artur Mas describes it as a step on the road to a Catalan state, at the same time as both Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy and his Finance Minister Luís de Guindos are trying to fight back with statements about the many problems, not least economic ones, that would hit an independent Catalonia. Independence winners who win 72 of the 135 seats in the regional parliament. The Alliance Together for Yes (Junts pel Sí), which brings together the CDC, ERC and a number of civil society organizations, wins 62 of the 135 seats, while the Cup (candidacy of the People’s Front), which stands much further to the left, receives 10 seats. Together, however, they get under half (47.8 percent of the total vote). Both the PP and the PSOE lose votes in the election (and receive 11 and 16 seats respectively), Ciudadano’s 25 seats and Catalonia yes we can (Catalunya Sí que es Pot) 11 seats. Podemos receives only 9 percent of the vote. The turnout is around 80 percent. The result means that Together for Yes, they need support from the Cup to retain power in Catalonia. However, Cup has said that the party in exchange for its support wants a different head of government than Mas. Cup wants Catalonia to unilaterally declare itself independent, while the larger party alliance wants to achieve independence through negotiations with the Spanish government. After the election, Prime Minister Rajoy opens a dialogue with Catalan leaders but is still reluctant to discuss their demands for independence.

Spain promises to welcome 2,800 refugees

In the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe, the Spanish government has taken a cautious approach and has so far, citing Spain’s economic problems, only agreed that Spain should accept 2,800 asylum seekers (according to an EU proposal, Spain’s quota should be about twice that Big). Prime Minister Rajoy, however, appears to be changing after pressure from, among others, the Catholic Church and several local politicians.

Rajoy announces parliamentary elections

At the beginning of the month, Prime Minister Rajoy says parliamentary elections will be held in December. The exact date should be stated as soon as the state budget has been adopted. Shortly thereafter, he makes an appearance together with British Prime Minister David Cameron and calls for new structural reforms of EU cooperation to increase the competitiveness of member states. The main purpose of the collaboration should be to create growth, they both write in a joint debate article.


More money for school and defense in PP’s new budget

The Spanish government looks to abandon the tough austerity policy and signals that the new budget will contain both tax cuts and salary increases and that more money will go towards education and defense. For the first time since the crisis began in 2008, central government debt has fallen to just over 98 percent of GDP. The budget deficit also looks to land below 3 percent of GDP, which the EU requires. According to the government’s forecast, growth will be just over 3 percent in the coming year. At the same time, Spaniards who have worked abroad, but who have since returned home, protest against the government starting to levy more taxes on their pensions. Anyone who only has a Spanish pension only has to pay tax if it exceeds EUR 22,000, but those who also have a pension from another country are taxed much harder. In addition, the tax authorities have appraised those affected (around 800,000 people).

IS recruits arrested

Spanish and Moroccan authorities carry out a joint operation and seize 14 people suspected of recruiting warriors to the Islamic State (IS) extremist Islamist group in Syria and Iraq. This occurs after a Moroccan citizen was arrested in connection with an attempted assault on a French express train.

Catalonia announces new elections

Catalonia’s President Artur Mas dissolves the regional parliament and announces new elections until September 27, a year in advance. The election is regarded as an indirect referendum on Catalonia’s independence. Mas has previously said that if parties advocating an outbreak of Spain gain a majority, they will try to create an independent Catalonia within 18 months. The central government in Madrid says it is prepared to have the new election stopped by the court. Prime Minister Rajoy urges the Catalans to leave the house and vote so as not to let the separatists win.


“Monk breeding law” is adopted despite protests from the opposition

July 1st

Congress adopts a new law, the Civil Protection Act, which is often referred to as the Monk Breeding Act (Ley Mordaza), which means, among other things, that people who are considered to disrupt the general order – through house occupations, in connection with clashes with police or who protest at “socially important places” such as the Congress and the Senate, may be fined just over sums (up to EUR 600,000 for particularly serious crimes). But even people who protest against evictions, show disrespect for the Spanish flag or demonstrate without permission can be sentenced to fines, as well as those filming or photographing events that pose a danger to police and their relatives. The media is also prohibited from using such films. Opposition parties, but also other social actors, protests against the law and accuses the PP government of wanting to create a police state. At the same time as the Monk Breeding Act is passed, the Penal Code (Article 578) is being tightened, which means that it is forbidden to “pay tribute to terrorism” and “humiliate victims of terrorism”.


Birth rates are rising again in Spain

New statistics show that Spanish birth rates have increased for the first time since 2008. In 2013, 425,715 children were born in Spain, in 2014 the numbers rose to 426,303. However, Spain still has low birth rates. After the 2008 crisis, many young Spaniards could not afford to move from home, and the number of children born per year has decreased by almost a fifth since then.


Spanish prosecution against Boko Haram’s leaders

Spain’s state prosecutor is prosecuting Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau for crimes against humanity and terrorism. The charge concerns an attack on the city of Ganye in eastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram killed 25 people and a Spanish nun was beaten. The incumbent government changed the Spanish legislation in 2014 so that Spanish courts can only investigate serious human rights violations if there is a Spanish connection to the case.

Success for new parties in the municipal and regional elections

In Barcelona, ​​Ada Colau, leader of the grassroots organization Barcelona En Comú, working to fight poverty, wins the mayor’s election. The ruling, bourgeois People’s Party (PP) wins the most votes (27 percent) in the municipal and regional elections, but both the PP and the Socialist Party (PSOE) lose ground against the two newer parties Podemos and Ciudadanos. The elections are seen by assessors as a test of where the parties will face the parliamentary elections later in the year. PP becomes the largest party in nine of the 13 regions where elections are held, but does not reach its own majority in any of them. It will therefore take time before the new regional government becomes clear, as the election result means that new government coalitions must be formed.


The house search of corruption-suspected politicians

The tax authorities are conducting a house search with Rodrigo Rato, former IMF chief and Spanish finance minister, as well as a highly regarded person in the Spanish court, in connection with a preliminary investigation against him for suspected fraud and money laundering.

Rajoy demands stop for illegal immigration

Prime Minister Rajoy wants increased cooperation between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to stop illegal immigration and “barbaric terrorism”. He said this at a meeting in Barcelona between EU foreign ministers and eight of their colleagues from countries south of the Mediterranean.


Spain demands Greece

Spain takes a hard line against Greece and opposes the country receiving any new money from the EU rescue fund unless the Greek left government implements a number of austerity measures.

Setback for PP and PSOE in Andalusia

In the regional elections in Andalusia on March 22, the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Conservative PP will be the largest parties with 47 and 33 seats respectively of the 109 at stake. However, both parties have lost support since the 2012 election. Podemos gets 15 seats, while the new middle party Ciudadanos (Citizens) gets nine and the United Left (IU) five seats. The setback shakes over the PP, where leading members quarrel about whose fault is. The criticism is directed not least to Prime Minister Rajoy. However, he is trying to point to some successes, such as the number of unemployed persons having fallen by more than 300,000 since March 2014.


The economy is growing again, but prices are falling

New figures show that the Spanish economy grew by 1.4 percent in 2014, which is the highest figure since the economic crisis began in the fall of 2008. At the same time, falling prices are a problem. Spain has had deflation since the summer of 2014, with a price race of over 1 percent since September 2014.

At least 100,000 participate in Podemo’s “March for Change”

Protesters gather in Madrid to take part in the “march for change” organized by Podemos. According to police, the protest rallies 100,000 participants, according to organizers they are 300,000.

Clergy are being prosecuted for sexual abuse

Ten Catholic priests are charged with sexually exploiting four teenage boys during the years 2004-2007. Pope Francis himself contacts one of the victims to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church.

Spain Labor Market