Spain’s unemployment rate inches up to three million

Spain's unemployment rate edged up slightly to 12.48 percent in the third quarter of this year after declining steadily since the end of 2020, official data showed Thursday.

Spain's unemployment rate inches up to three million
Some half a million people lost their jobs in 2020 in Spain, which has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BERDA / AFP)

The jobless rate inched up to 12.67 percent in the period from July to September from 12.48 percent in the previous three-month period, national statistics institute INE said in a statement. Youth unemployment now stands at 31 percent.

The number of unemployed people rose by 60,800 in the third quarter to a total of 2.98 million even though 70,000 jobs were created, with most jobs lost in services, including Spain’s key tourism sector, and agriculture.

The jobless rate was still lower than during the same period a year ago when it stood at 14.57 percent.

The number of job seekers in Spain fell below three million in May for the first time since November 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis.

The fall in joblessness was due to a rebound in Spain’s tourism sector following the end of most pandemic travel restrictions and a labour market reform which limits the back-to-back use of temporary contracts.

The number of permanent contracts in Spain in the third quarter rose by 444,200.

Among Western economies, Spain was one of the worst-hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic, with its gross domestic product collapsing by 10.8 percent in 2020, largely due to its heavy dependence on tourism.

Some half a million people lost their jobs in 2020 in Spain, which has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The government predicts the jobless rate will drop to 12.2 percent at the end of 2023 despite a slowdown in the economy due to soaring inflation and the uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine.

But many analysts are much more pessimistic. Investment bank ING predicted Spain’s unemployment rate will rise steadily to 14.3 percent in the third quarter of 2023.

It expects the Spanish economy, the eurozone’s fourth largest, will enter a mild recession in the fourth quarter of 2022 that will continue until the first quarter of next year.

“Business confidence has also deteriorated sharply in recent months, which will encourage companies to be more careful with new hires,” ING economist Wouter Thierie said in a research note.

The higher share of permanent contracts, however, will cause the rise in the jobless rate to “be less pronounced than during previous recessionary periods”, he added.

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The best work visas and tips for Brits who want to move to Spain post-Brexit

Brexit has made it far harder for UK nationals of a working age to get a job in Spain as non-EU nationals, but having the right knowledge about the work permits available and advice on how to complete the process can help Brits with their dream move.

The best work visas and tips for Brits who want to move to Spain post-Brexit

The United Kingdom’s official exit from the EU on December 31st 2021 has meant that a move to Spain after that date is no longer straightforward for most Britons.

Instead, it’s now largely a luxury move reserved for those with enough savings to be able to afford to not work and get Spain’s non-lucrative visa, or splash out half a million euros on a Spanish property to obtain the so-called golden visa.

Gone are the days when young or middle-aged Brits could pack up and move to Spain without a visa or a job and figure things out as they settled into their new Spanish life.

READ MORE: Six facts Brits in Spain became acutely aware of with Brexit

Brits are now subject to rules such as there having to be no EU candidate that can do their job instead, or having to earn enough to not be considered a ‘burden for the State’.

However, that doesn’t mean that there are no options for UK nationals of a working age to gain the right to live and work in Spain post-Brexit.

Which work visa options are available to UK nationals?

Under Spain’s immigration framework, there are several types of work permits, including two new ones that can be helpful to Britons.  

Long-term work visa: Dependent on a contract job offer, non-EU candidate available, must be on shortage occupation list (Spain has in theory included more jobs into this list but it hasn’t happened in practice yet)

Self-employed work visa: Need to prove qualifications, proof of investment and need to submit business plan

EU Blue Card: A new visa available in Spain, it’s a specialist residency permit similar to the US green card in that it’s geared towards drawing highly qualified professionals and talented foreigners. Read all the details here.  

Digital nomad visa: Another new visa that Brits can use to move to Spain, allows them to work remotely from Spain but has certain requirements regarding income, tax etc. 

READ MORE: The pros and cons of Spain’s digital nomad visa

Other work permits that may be of interest are the seasonal work visa, the au pair visa and residency permits that give the right to work such as the Family Member of EU citizen card, long-term residency permit and the student visa.

Which is the easiest Spanish work permit for Brits?

As things stand, the digital nomad visa is arguably the easiest option for Britons who want to move to Spain and work from there. 

Given that they can either have worked already secured in the UK or elsewhere other than Spain through a job contract and ask to work remotely, or that with a sufficient number of international clients and income they can freelance from Spain, this is potentially the most straightforward visa in terms of proving work and earnings, and therefore getting their Spanish application approved. 


Likewise, the new EU Blue Card system that Spain has joined can allow UK nationals to sidestep some of the requirements of the conventional Spanish work visa (proving no EU candidate is available and short skills list). 

You still need to have at least five years’ experience in your field, a valid qualification, earn 1.5 times more than the average Spaniard and a job offer in Spain, but for more senior British workers this is achievable.

Obtaining the new digital nomad visa is arguably the easiest way to live and work in Spain for Brits in 2023. Photo: Euan Cameron/Unsplash

One Briton’s experience of applying for a Spanish work visa

From applying for work permits to residency visas, all in Spanish, taking on this challenge may seem daunting for those wishing to come here.

The Local Spain spoke to one UK citizen who currently finds themselves in the middle of this bureaucratic labyrinth, in order to hear about their experience with the process and to see if there is any advice they can offer to other UK citizens thinking about making the move to Spain.

Wishing to remain anonymous, the interviewee told The Local how she had lived in Spain prior to 2015. But now, seeking to return, she is required to obtain a visa to work and live here again.

“I was in Madrid in 2015, where I worked in a language school teaching English, so I still have a NIE (foreigner’s identity number) from that time. However, because of Brexit, I have to go through an additional application process to try and obtain a TIE (non-EU residence card as I don’t have Withdrawal Agreement rights.”

READ ALSO: The reasons why Brits are moving to Spain post-Brexit

Obtaining the right to work in Spain has been just as challenging as getting her residency rights back.

“I looked into the Brexit agreement and how to obtain the new residency TIE card. I contacted the embassy in Madrid and in the UK; they sent me paperwork to check the rules post-Brexit. 

“I couldn’t do it alone, so I found a Spanish lawyer to work with. I then travelled to Madrid to interview and obtain a job offer and meet with my lawyer. The documentation I needed were copies of my passport, a job contract, a Padron certificate, and my NIE with proof of my previous employment/social security number.”

One of the main concerns for those applying for any type of work permit is the time it takes to process the application. The English teaching industry, in particular, is finding this to be a disincentive in hiring UK nationals for teaching jobs.

Some academy directors have expressed their frustration at the holdups in processing applications, leading them to focus on other candidates outside the UK due to the uncertainty of having teachers ready for the start of the academic year in October.

Having submitted their application on the 13th of April, our interviewee is still waiting to hear if their application has been successful.

“At that time, my lawyer said the process was taking 3 weeks on average; it is meant to take a maximum of 3 months. I’m still waiting.”

A civil servant working for the Spanish Ministry of the Interior told The Local that on average, work permits along with other residency permits should take a maximum of three months to process but can take up to five or six months depending on the number of applications going through the system.

It was also stated that, in the interest of reducing the number of unemployed Spaniards, the government aims to encourage schools and other companies to hire Spanish nationals instead of individuals on work visas from non-EU countries such as the UK.

READ ALSO: ‘Frustrating, but don’t give up’ – How easy is it for Brits to move to Spain?


Advice for Britons applying for a Spanish work visa

A question of time: Not known for its efficiency, the Spanish civil service can be frustratingly slow at times, so make sure to start your application well in advance in case of any delays or backlogs in the system.

Consider hiring a lawyer: Navigating government websites, dealing with legal documents, and understanding what exactly is required as part of your application can be daunting, especially if you are coming to Spain for the first time. Consider hiring a lawyer (many offer services in English) to help you complete your application and ensure its success.

Ask your employer to help you: It’s in the interest of your future employer to assist you in the application process, so ask if they have any contacts of people who have already gone through the work permit application system. Some companies also hire their own lawyers to help employ non-EU workers.

Make sure you know what documents you need: From passports to job offers, ensure you know exactly what you need to have prepared for the application before starting. Missing documents and other administrative delays could see your application held up in the system longer than necessary.

Be patient: Like with most bureaucracy in Spain, patience is key. If you make your application in good time with all the necessary documentation in order, there is no reason why the application won’t be successful. It might take longer than expected, but with a little patience, you should be granted your permit and can then look forward to starting your life in Spain.