Women ‘big losers’ as Spain’s salary gap grows

The pay gap between women and men Spain is higher than average for the EU and the country is one of only a handful where wage inequality is one the rise, a new report reveals.

Women 'big losers' as Spain's salary gap grows
Spanish women are paid 17.8 per cent less than men in the equivalent jobs, and 31.8 per cent less for part-time jobs. File photo: victor1558

At a startling 17.8 percent, the gap between pay for men and women is 1.4 percent higher in Spain than average for the EU, the Tackling the gender pay gap  in the European Union study shows.

Based on Eurostat findings, the report been released to coincide with 'European Equal Pay Day'.

It defines the gender pay gap as the average difference between women and men’s hourly earnings across the entire economy.

The EU-wide average of 16.4 per cent means that 'European Equal Pay Day' – the date in the new calendar year from which women really begin to be paid for their work as compared to men – is marked this year on 28th February, for the second year in a row.

According to this measure, women in Europe work, on average, 59 days a year "for free".

And the situation for women in Spain is even worse.

The country tops the EU charts for gender pay gaps in part-time jobs with 31.8 per cent, a significant lead over Portugal (26.1 per cent) and Slovakia (24.4 per cent).

And its overall pay gap of 17.8 per cent is higher than in most countries, including neighbours Portugal and France, but some way below the UK (19.1 per cent) and Germany (22.4 per cent).

The report also shows that Spain is alongside Hungary, Portugal, Estonia, Bulgaria and Ireland in the group of countries where the gender gap has widened in recent years.

Women fare worst in Estonia (30 percent) and Austria (23.4 percent) and best in Slovenia (2.5 percent), Malta (6.1 percent), Poland (6.4 per cent) and Italy (6.7 per cent).

The European Commission says that it is "currently looking at options for action at European level to improve pay transparency and thereby tackle the gender pay gap, helping to promote and facilitate effective application of the principle of equal pay in practice."

Belgium, France, Austria and Portugal are praised for introducing legislation to address the problem.

But Spain's response has been to create "an institutional logo" to support its national Equal Pay Day and to produce "lottery tickets" and "specific post stamps".

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‘Hard to stay afloat’: Is working for an English language academy in Spain worth it?

It's the go-to work option for countless anglophones in Spain, but is teaching at an English language academy still enough to pay the bills in a climate of rising prices, stagnant wages and a shift to online learning platforms?

'Hard to stay afloat': Is working for an English language academy in Spain worth it?

Traditionally seen as a type of gap-year experience for recent graduates and/or those seeking adventure before settling down to a more traditional career path, English language teaching in Spain has becoming increasingly popular as a long-term career.

A high quality of life, a more favourable climate and generally lower living costs have always made Spain a popular destination for English language teachers, with Spain posting the highest number of job advertisements for teachers among European countries.

As a result, many of those working in the industry see it as somewhere to further both their professional and personal lives.

However, poor job security, stagnant salaries and issues surrounding the long-term sustainability of language academies have plagued the sector for years.

The recent impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the current rise in inflation has further compounded these issues, with many teachers considering their long-term careers in Spain.

Teachers working for private language academies in large cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla can expect to earn between €800 to €1,400 a month after tax for about 20 to 30 hours of class time per week.

One teacher told The Local Spain that despite working as a profesor de inglés for almost a decade, his academy salary had gone down dramatically in real wage terms, following a salary cut during the pandemic which made it “hard to keep my head above water”.

“I was working as a teacher for nine years but felt the need to leave the profession as the hours I needed to work were affecting my mental health. During my first three years in Spain, I was able to get by on my salary. Since then, I have increased the number of private classes gradually, I save the same a month as I did when I first moved here, but have to work an extra eight hours a week to be in that situation”.

READ ALSO: The pros and cons of being an English language assistant in Spain

As of 2022, the minimum monthly salary stands at €1,166 gross for a 40-hour working week, meaning that someone working as an English teacher can expect to earn more or less the minimum wage based on their contact hours, with many opting to teach privately in order to supplement their income.

In addition to this, most teachers are hired on short-term indefinido contracts, meaning that they only earn a monthly salary for nine months of the year, resulting in many taking on summer work to maintain a year-round monthly income.

While short-term informal contracts and a relatively manageable monthly salary may have appealed to single, twenty-somethings seeking a few years of fun and adventure in Spain, for those looking to support a family or get on the property ladder the precarious economic reality of English language teaching has seen many reconsider their long-term career goals.

“I rented when I initially moved here but now I’m paying off a mortgage which has gone up due to interest rate rises,” another English teacher told The Local Spain. 

A traditionally in-person industry, the pandemic forced many academies online and, due to increased competition from online language learning platforms along with a paradigm shift in terms of hybrid and remote study and work, academies have struggled to replace students lost to this new language learning environment.

As a result of this, some teachers have seen their weekly teaching hours reduced as academies simply cannot guarantee a full schedule, putting further financial pressure on teachers.

teaching english spain

Poor job security, stagnant salaries and issues surrounding the long-term sustainability of language academies have been plaguing the industry for years in Spain. Photo: Thirdman/Pexels

One teacher with over seven years working experience for a large English academy in Madrid told The Local that “a few years ago our company began the long process of trying to cut our supplements and basic wage”.

“We were backed up by our comité, (representative group) but after about a year of negotiations, reductions (and redundancies) were made. At the time it cut about €250 from my meagre wages.”

As is the case across Europe, the level of inflation in Spain has risen sharply to about 10.5 percent as of September 2022. Combined with rising energy prices, more and more teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to live off a salary in some cases of just over €1,000 a month.

With the average cost of renting a room ranging from €400 to €500 in large cities, some teachers are choosing to cut costs in terms of their living standards to make their salaries stretch further.

Another teacher told The Local how “while I still go out at the weekend and buy the food I want at supermarkets, the increase in rental prices has meant that I’ve stayed in a less-than-ideal room, rather than finding a better room – due to not wanting to pay significantly more in rent”.

While the challenges facing English teachers in Spain are not unique to their line of work, this latest set of drawbacks should be factored in by anyone considering making a move here or teaching long-term.

Such economic realities are difficult to ignore, but that’s not to say there isn’t a lot English teaching can offer someone looking to gain some valuable work and life experience while also enjoying the hustle and bustle of life in Spain.

Article by Cormac Breen