Work in Spain: Is Spain a terrible place to work?

Trabajar en España

It’s long been said by its northern European neighbours that Spain is a great place to live and a terrible place to work. But is it true how is it to work in Spain?

Table of Contents

TL:DR: 90% Yes, if not terrible, not great.

We’re taking a look through various sources to get a good range of opinion to answer this question (as best as we possibly can). Let’s start with this: More workers in Spain work more than 60 hour weeks than in the USA (also note the UK up in 8th place).

It’s a common belief that Spaniards don’t start work until ten, and clock off at 2 pm for lunch and a snooze. But that’s a skewed understanding of the way Spain works in 2018, especially for white-collar office workers. People who harbour this opinion see the lifestyle of Spain from their sunbeds by the pool in the beach resorts. But the reality is those hotel workers and waiters do not represent the average Spanish worker. If you work in a normal office job in Spain, you are likely to work over 9 hours a day. This article from the Guardian hits the nail on the head.

But take a look at what Hope Pauly thinks of Spain:

More worrying than Hope’s opinion is the overall reputation of the country regarding the quality of products. This is important from the European standpoint, for two reasons:

  • It compounds the belief that Spanish products are inferior to German products, thereby solidifying Germany as “the country of quality” which damages the Eurozone as a whole, and has even led to debates of a two-tier European model.
  • It drives down prices for southern European products, and therefore wages, but due to the monetary value being the same for a BMW 5 series in both Germany and Spain; Spanish people have to work more hours to afford one. Fair?

That data above is getting pretty old now, from around 2014, and currently, Spain is actually moving closer to the top-ten in the Global Reputation Survey, though this is more for the friendliness of the people than for innovation and technology. But therein lies the rub.

Work in Spain


Why do you want to work in Spain? Do you want to live and work in a country offering the best businesses competing and talent-hunting the cream of white collar industries? Modern efficiencies and staff-cutting to streamline processes to improve the bottom-line?


Unfortunately, the cracks are not being papered over properly like in other countries. Though there has been pacey growth, the fastest in the EU area alongside the UK, productivity is growing at -0.1%, people are working even harder for low wages and it’s a constant bugbear of workers in Spain.

Presencialism is commonplace, hours are long, and Monday to Friday is spent mostly in the office and answering emails late into the night. There are opportunities in multinational companies for extremely talented business directors, but unless you are coming to Spain with a visa and a very clear job in hand, there are few big-bucks industries like in The City or in Munich.


It’s conceivable that most people moving to Spain just want to escape the rat-race, and Spain offers the perfect place to escape to. Employment is increasing in tandem with the recovering economy. Jobs, if not plentiful, are achievable and the cost of living is low.

You don’t need a whopping salary to live and work in Spain, and as above, people are friendly and life is more relaxed. For young people coming for the adventure, teaching English is always a fallback as jobs are always available. Many qualified teachers from the UK and the USA find work in international schools where the pay and conditions are much better than in language academies. Just don’t expect to get close to UK/US wages.

In the end. It isn’t news that Spain is not the best country to work in, but this is offset by the relaxed lifestyle and friendly people. There is an effort from Spaniards to improve work and living standards, but in the face of a homogenous European economy skewing trade in favour of northern countries, it’s a tough ask.

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