Spain’s govt salvages key labour reform thanks to voting error

The Spanish government on Thursday managed to pass a long-awaited labour reform aimed at ending rampant job insecurity with a majority of just one, but it has emerged that a PP deputy accidentally voted for the legislation and in doing so tipped the balance in favour of the government.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in the Spanish Parliament
Sánchez managed to push through the reform with support from the centrist-liberal Ciudadanos party and some other centre-right lawmakers. Photo: DANI DUCH / POOL / AFP)

Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE government managed to secure congressional support for long-awaited labour reform on Thursday that not only aims to undo the policy of the previous PP government but was demanded by Brussels in order to release European recovery funds.

Sanchez managed to push through the reform with support from the centrist-liberal Ciudadanos party and some other centre-right lawmakers, but the congressional arithmetic was incredibly tight and in the end the reforms were backed with a majority of just one vote — 175 in favour and 174 against in the 350-seat chamber.

Led by Podemos Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz, the reforms are an attempt to resolve the rampant insecurity in Spain’s labour market, which has the highest number of temporary contracts in Europe, and improves working conditions and creates training and apprenticeship schemes for young workers up to the age of 30. 

Although Díaz had successfully steered the bill through hard-fought negotiations between the government, business leaders and trade unions, it still needed parliamentary approval.

But getting the numbers in Congress proved difficult for the minority-coalition government – Sanchez’s Socialists and hard-left coalition partner Podemos – not getting support from key allies they have relied on in the past to force through legislation, notably Basque and Catalan independence parties, which voted against.

The right-wing opposition Popular Party and far-right Vox both voted against the reforms, however it has since emerged that the vote was, incredibly, tipped accidentally in the government’s favour by an unknowing PP deputy. 

The one vote majority was gifted to the government due to a “computer error” by the PP deputy and he  had in fact meant to vote against the reform. It was an “anomaly” and should be “rectified”, party spokesperson Cuca Gamarra insisted.

Although reforming the Rajoy government’s much-maligned 2012 labour bill was a campaign promise of Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE, it is impossible to ignore that the 140bn COVID-19 financial stimulus package promised by Brussels was conditional on tangible reform of the Spanish labour market.

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Your questions answered about Spain’s digital nomad visa

Spain's long-awaited digital nomad visa is finally available, but there is still much confusion about it, so we've answered all your burning questions.

Your questions answered about Spain's digital nomad visa

Spain’s Startups Law, which also introduced a new digital nomad visa, was approved at the end of 2022, but didn’t come into force until January 2023 and all the details are only just now being revealed. 

From how much money you need to your tax obligations and if you can bring family, members, here are all your questions answered. 

What are the financial requirements to apply for the visa?

You must prove that you earn 200 percent of the SMI or Minimum Interprofessional Salary. The current minimum wage in Spain is €1,000 per month (across 14 payments) or €1,166.67 across 12 payments.

Keep in mind though that the minimum wage is currently being re-evaluated and is likely to go up to €1,082 (across 14 payments) per month in the near future.

This means that currently, you must be able to show that you will have an income of at least €2,333.34 per month or €28,000 per year, but it is likely this will increase. You can prove this amount either with job contracts, invoices or bank statements.

Can I bring family members with me on the visa?

Yes, you are permitted to bring partners and children with you to Spain on the digital nomad visa.

In order to add a family member, however, you must prove that you have an extra 75 percent of the SMI or minimum wage. This currently equates to an extra €875. For each additional family member after this, such as children, you will have to prove you have an extra 25 percent of the SMI, currently €291.66.

READ ALSO: Ten of the best cities for digital nomads to move to in Spain

Do I need private health care?

You must also make sure that you have either private or public health insurance, simply getting travel insurance with health coverage is not enough.

The Spanish government mentions the option of getting public health insurance instead of private cover, but it is not yet clear whether this means that you will have to contribute to the social security system or be eligible for the convenio especial – the public pay-in scheme.

Do I have to have any professional qualifications? 

You must prove that you either have professional qualifications or a degree relating to your job or that you have at least 3 years’ experience working in your field. 

How long is the visa valid for?

The visa will be valid for an initial period of one year, however, it can be renewed for up to five years. After that, if you want to continue living in Spain, you will be able to apply for permanent residency.

Does the visa give me access to travel around the EU?

Yes, once you have your visa and you’re in Spain, you will be able to apply for a residency card. This will allow you to travel throughout the EU during the time that you’re living in Spain.

Keep in mind though, it won’t give you the right to work or live in other EU countries, but you will be able to go for short breaks. 

How long do I have to stay in Spain for the visa to be valid?

Many digital nomads choose to split their time between different countries. If this is your case, and you want to split your time between back home in the US or the UK for example, you must make sure you stay in Spain for a maximum of 6 months per year for your visa to remain valid.

Do I have to pay tax in Spain?

Yes. If you stay longer than 183 days, then you will be considered a tax resident in Spain. This means that any money you earn while working in Spain, even if it comes from clients or companies abroad will be taxable.

However, the digital nomad visa grants you tax benefits, such as being able to pay the Non-Residents Tax Rate (IRNR) rather than the regular progressive income tax (IRPF) that Spain’s resident workers pay.

Non-Resident Tax was previously only applicable to non-residents such as second-home owners, but an exception has been made for digital nomad visa holders even if they spend more than 183 days a year in Spain and are therefore technically fiscal residents.

IRNR is generally 24 percent in Spain but this will be reduced to 15 percent for digital nomads and remote workers, as long as you earn below €600,000 a year.

This favourable tax rate will be available for four years, if you choose to renew your visa.