Wages and Benefits in Spain

Spain's current economic climate is changing. After a booming decade in the 1990s, the financial crisis of 2008 has left Spain in the throes of one of its darkest ages, a time in which unemployment is sky-high and many are calling for a complete dismantling of the government, secession and even  Spain's young people are moving abroad to find work. Unemployment is 20% higher than in other EU states, particularly for those 35 and under.

Work Standards

The typical work week is 35 hours a week, though this will vary greatly according to sector. Full-time salaried workers will earn wages 14 times a year – 12 monthly payments within the first five days of the following month and two bonuses, one at summer holidays and one at Christmastime.

The minimum professional salary is 663€ a month for full-time work, with average salaries falling between 18,000€ and 25,000€ a year. The Basque Country, Madrid and Barcelona have the highest average salaries, which are low compared to other European countries, but thanks to a lesser cost of living, many are able to make ends meet.

Employers sometimes hire for less on an “internship,” mostly seeking out young professionals or unskilled workers who are desperate to work. Professional salaries are paid monthly, often through direct deposit, while many hourly workers, such as English teachers or nurses, are paid hourly.

Taxes must be reported yearly before June 30th, though the extensive black market in Spain means that a large percentage of earnings are not reported. Recently, new legislation has called for more rights for hourly workers, such as housekeepers and nannies.

The Private and Public Sectors

There are two types of workers: those in the private sector and those in the public sector, called funcionarios.

The Public Sector and Funcionarios

The latter are civil servants controlled by the government through testing, called oposiciones. The number of funcionarios is about 2.6 million – as they include public school teachers, administrative clerks, judges, the police force and the military, among others – and earn between 1.300€ and 3.000€ a month. Many consider securing a position within the government to be the ultimate goal, as they are guaranteed a job for life at a competitive wage. This, of course, leads the reputation that civil servants earn a wage for less working hours and are, in general, lazy. In fact, there are few incentives to work hard or set professional goals once inside the system.

Still, many members of the public work force have suffered setbacks in the last few years because of the Financial Crisis. Salary and benefit cuts are rampant because, as the saying goes, the Cabinet must be summoned to fire a Funcionario.

The Private Sector

Any employee hired by a private company is considered part of the private workforce. As wages and  benefits are determined by the employer, wages can vary greatly. In some sectors, a convenio or agreement will exist with minimum pay and hours schemes. Request one from an employer and read it thoroughly to be sure you understand what you're entitled to.

Spain has a great number of temporary contracts given for temporary and holiday work around Christmas and summer holiday time. Temporary contracts are generally given for up to six months with lesser benefits. The employer makes the decision to award an employee on a temporary contract another contract, or release them at the conclusion of their duties.

Worker's Rights

Most workers will receive health care via the Social Security System, paid for in full or in part by their employer. The exception here is someone who is self-employed, who will be then required to foot the bill himself. Extra benefits, such as transportation or productivity, are sometimes paid by the employer, as well.


Workers are given time off depending on their sector. The most common is local and national holidays, plus one month's paid vacation for a full-time worker, typically taken in August. This information will be detailed in a work contract.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Women expecting a baby are entitled to 16 weeks paid maternity leave for the first child, and an extra two weeks for each additional child. What's more, an expectant mother can rest for up to ten weeks before the birth.

To apply for maternity benefits, you'll need to go to your nearest social security office and present your NIE and the Maternity Benefit Application form.

Paternity leave is typically fifteen natural days from the birth of the child with full wages and benefits earned. It is expected that this rate will double by 2015.

Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment in Spain is called paro, and someone is en paro when their contract has ended abruptly, has had a temporary or authorized reduction in hours, has recently been released from serving a prison sentence or has been abroad and, upon return, is unemployed.

To get the full benefits of the system, a worker must have been contributing to Social Security for at least 360 days in the previous six years, a process called cotización. Once unemployed, a worker must report their status to an Oficina de Empleo nearest them, presenting their Social Security number and a certificate of release from their former contract. They can receive benefits, whose amount will vary according to the number of días cotizados, so long as they sign up as a job seeker. For more detailed information about unemployment benefits, the Ministry of Employment and Social Security's English page is rather complete.

Registering with an Unemployment Office

Once end-of-contract or termination papers have been signed, a worker must go to an unemployment office within 15 days to present the following paperwork:

  • Completed and signed form Mod. PR-AIN/03-279-S
  • Valid Identification with photo (NIE or DNI)
  • Company certificates or paycheck stubs (called nóminas) from the previous six months
  • Family book if the worker has children

As mentioned, the amount available to a worker will vary depending on how many days they have cotizados, and the money will be paid monthly through direct deposit.

The headquarters for the Unemployment offices, called Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal, can be found at:

Calle Condes de Venadito, s/n
28027 Madrid
+0034 91 585 98 88

By Cat Gaa, who left her native Chicago five years ago to live in the olive groves of Andalusia. Residing in Seville, she teaches first grade at a private school, but all she wants to really do is write.