Working In Spain – Still An Option?

by Rob Innis

It is no secret that the Spanish economy, along with most of Europe, has taken a battering with the current financial downturn referred to here as the ‘crisis.’ Unemployment is running at record high levels – so does that mean job opportunities are zero?

Here on the Costa Blanca the boom years of mass construction are over and immigration levels are down. During that period work was easy for not only the locals but many foreigners came and setup all different types of business including bars, restaurants, supermarkets, car sales etc to serve the new arrivals. Unfortunately many of those have now closed and vacant commercial property is in abundance.

However the economy here is different to the major cities where there tends to be a high concentration of white collar jobs in the large government and corporate headquarters offices of Spain’s big companies. But beware the large organisations are cost cutting.Coastal job scene

The coastal job scene is not so much white collar as white apron. If you are not seeking a high flying career but prefer basic service sector type work then perhaps the coast is the opportunity you are looking for.

Do not think that all enterprises are purely Spanish because they are not. We now have a vast range of nationalities running businesses of all kinds. There are Chinese, Russian, South American and East European bars, restaurants, and shops selling everything from food to car spares to solar panel systems. They sometimes employ staff of other nationalities for their languages. The daughter of a friend of mine is currently employed in a Chinese bazaar because of her native English and Spanish, learnt at school.

So which types of jobs are currently available? Looking in my local papers it is mainly sales – selling advertising space, financial services and even funeral plans (very popular over here with the elderly Expats) The basic salary maybe low but if you can sell to make those important commissions and can offer a second language then you might be lucky to find a great position.

All is not gloom…

If you have a more qualified skill set and are prepared to be based in one of the larger cities like Madrid or Barcelona then there just might be some good news. The national newspaper El Pais says under the heading ‘All is not gloom for some in the crisis’

"The kinds of workers that companies are asking for the most, those with the most options right now, are those who specialize in engineering and technical work," explains Susana Sosa, director of Adecco Professional, the recruitment consulting division of the Adecco Group.

Go self-employed

What if you can’t find a job? Well maybe you have to create one. Some creativity can go a long way here on the coast – see a gap and fill it. Opportunities can exist here which are maybe unavailable in your own country: e.g. pool cleaning and gardening is in demand, especially when the owners are not resident. Many properties are owned by people who have yet to relocate full time. Some let their houses out so they need cleaning and servicing. Fairly basic work requiring minimal experience and skills but if you build up a portfolio of properties then it can be financially rewarding.

Maybe the internet is your thing. If so why not work from home using Spain’s excellent, though expensive, broadband internet services. Work the hours to suit yourself and spend your leisure time in the pool or on the beach.

The option to be your own boss can be extremely appealing to those who are setting out on a new lifestyle. But it will take hard work and commitment. However, at least the profit will go in your pocket and not someone else’s. Be prepared for high national insurance contributions known as autonomos which need to be paid for health cover and pension etc.

Do your research

Relocation to Spain is not for everyone. You have to decide what you want and what family responsibilities you have. If you are happy to maybe downsize a little then find a job that pays the bills and leaves you plenty of time to explore. Discovering the culture and other delights this country offers can be part of your daily life.

Escaping the rat race and working (for instance) behind a bar, great for meeting new friends, may be just the change of lifestyle that would benefit you. But remember the bills will still have to be paid and there is not the same level of government handouts here as other countries. Spain’s healthcare system is only available to those who contribute unlike the UK which is residency based.

Do plenty of thorough research; time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted as they say. Spain can offer some exciting opportunities but be prepared to be flexible and adapt to your new surroundings and situation especially during these difficult times.

Rob Innis has been an Expat in Spain for 12 years and regularly writes articles on living in Spain. He recently published ‘Spain Exposed’ on Amazon Kindle. For more see robinnis.wordpress.com.