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WORKING IN SPAIN

Spain’s government eyes €31 minimum wage rise to €996

Spain’s left-wing coalition government has proposed raising the minimum wage for the second time in the last six months to almost €1,000 in 14 payments, a move that could benefit 2 million people in the country. 

spain minimum wage
Despite job insecurity, Spain has the seventh highest minimum wages in the EU. Photo: Josep Lago

Spain’s second deputy prime minister and Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz is pushing for the country’s minimum wage – el Salario Mínimo Interprofesional (SMI) – to be increased again. 

“What would I like? For there to be a minimum wage of €1,000,” she told journalists on Monday.

Díaz did not disclose the exact salary increase but the head of top Spanish workers’ union UGT, Mari Cruz Vicente, has revealed the exact figures proposed by the Unidas Podemos politician.

The increase would be of €31 from the current €965 to €996. This would apply to full-time work contracts, it refers to a gross amount (pre-tax) and it would be paid in 14 different payments as is the standard in Spain. 

The draft decree will first have to be debated by business associations, unions and members of the Spanish cabinet to ensure the minimum wage rise actually comes into force. 

Last September, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved a €15 rise in el salario mínimo from €950 to €965, a bill which was again spearheaded by Yolanda Díaz.

“There’s no better weapon in the fight against poverty than this,” Díaz argued, who also defended “raising wages in general”.

This previous rise in minimum wages in Spain resulted in the increase of €8 in social security contributions for the country’s self-employed workers up to €294 a month, a figure that could increase further still for many under new plans to raise rates based on real earnings.  

Even though job insecurity and unemployment remain relatively high in Spain, the country has the seventh highest minimum wage rate in the EU. 

The gross amount of €1,126, which is the equivalent of €965 but in twelve payments a year, is higher than Italy’s or Greece’s minimum wage but considerably lower than France’s (€1,603/month), Germany’s (€1,621), Belgium’s (€1,658), the Netherlands’ (€1,725) or Ireland’s (€1,775). 

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.

This will also lead to a salary increase for some 73,000 workers in Spain who belong to multi-service companies that offer cleaning, gardening, maintenance and other services.

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WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.




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