Spain's self-employed suffer skills shortage

George Mills
George Mills - [email protected]
Spain's self-employed suffer skills shortage
According to Adecco, only 38.2 percent of Spanish women working for themselves carry out specialized tasks. Photo: Victor1558/Flickr

Spain's 2.9 million-strong army of self-employed people is among the least skilled in Europe, a new study by employment human resources agency Adecco shows.


The European Union (EU) could boast of 23.8 million self-employed people in 2012, or 15.2 percent of the region's workforce.

In Spain, meanwhile, a slightly higher then average 16.8 percent of people — or around one in six people — are their own boss.

This puts the Iberian country mid-table in the self-employed stakes: out in front is Italy where 23.4 percent work for themselves.

At the other end of the scale is Sweden where just 10.2 percent of people are in this situation.

In Germany and France, meanwhile, this rate is 11 percent.

These are some of the figures presented in a study by employment agency Adecco into self-employment in ten EU countries. 

Based on figures from the European stats office Eurostat  and from Spain's national statistic institute (the INE), the HR company's study also provides a detailed snapshot of Spain's self-employed workers.

It shows that in Spain — as elsewhere in Europe — the older you are, the more likely it is you are working for yourself.  

Among 25 to 49-year-olds, 14.6 percent of workers are self-employed, against 13.9 across the EU.

"Most of Spain's autónomos (self-employed workers) pay a minimum flat rate of around €250 a month," Sebastián Reyna, the President of the Union of Professional and Working Self-employed  People (UPTA) told The Local recently.

"In exchange, these registered self-employed people receive health care and pension entitlements — at least once you have paid into the system for 15 years."

These costs can appear prohibitive to younger less-established workers given that they have to be paid every month.

But Reina says new reduced tariffs for self-employed people under 30 have helped boosted the number of self-employed workers in Spain.

Spain saw over 17,000 new self-employed workers in the first half of 2013 according to a study carried out by entrepreneur association ATA.

At the other end of the age spectrum, the percentage of workers aged 65 and over who are self-employed workers jumps to 51 percent.

"This is partly because older people are topping up their pension payments," Reyna from UPTA said.

The Adecco study also shows that just under one in three self-employed Spanish workers (31.4 percent) have contracted other staff.

This is slightly above the European average of 28.3 percent.

In Germany, that figure is 42.9 percent, while in the UK it's 17.7 percent.

"Given the economic situation, Spain's self-employed workers are very unlikely to take on new staff," said Reyna of UPTA.

"Those contracts that are signed are likely to be only temporary," he added.

The Adecco study also provides a breakdown of Europe's self-employed workers by sector, with industry, agriculture and services represented.

Spain self-employed workers are much more likely to work in service industries than their European colleagues, with 57.6 percent of the country's autónomos in this sector.

Italy has a similar figure at 56.1 percent while the study average is ten points lower at 46.1 percent.

Another finding of the Adecco study is that there is a very high rate of unskilled workers among Spain's self-employed army with this figure hitting 32.5 percent.

"This includes everyone from taxi-drivers to people working in transport or sales as well as people in the leisure sector," Reina from UPTA explained.

Among men, this rate is 23 percent but among women it's almost double at 43.9 percent.

According to Adecco, only 38.2 percent of Spanish women working for themselves carry out specialized tasks.

That's against an average of 50.3 across the European Union. 

The gap is narrower for men: 68.2 percent of self-employed men in Spain are doing specialized work that requires training.

That's against a European average of 72.5 percent.


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