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EXPLAINED: Spain's plans to recruit thousands of foreigners for construction and trade jobs 

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EXPLAINED: Spain's plans to recruit thousands of foreigners for construction and trade jobs 
Spain wants trade and construction workers with the skills needed to help with refurbishing and building to the latest energy efficient standards. Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images/AFP

Spain recently changed its migration laws to recruit more foreigners from overseas for industries with labour shortages, and its primary focus for 2023 is to hire carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other workers involved in construction.  


It may seem strange that a country with 12.7 percent unemployment is struggling to find workers for a number of sectors, from doctors to waiters, but this is indeed the case in Spain. 

READ MORE: The ‘Big Quit’ hits Spain despite high unemployment and huge job vacancies

Last August, the Spanish government amended its laws relating to the rights and freedoms of non-EU foreigners in the country, as a means of resolving the bureaucratic obstacles which often prevent Spain from using migrants to cover labour shortages.


The legislation changes are mainly aimed at addressing blue-collar work shortages, including those deemed high-skilled and low-skilled. 

Over the summer, the primary need was to find more waiters. Now the Spanish government is looking to find all manner of workers involved in the construction industry. 

The official list, although not published yet by the Spanish government, is reportedly made up of 31 different occupations including plumbers, foremen, welders, electricians, plasterers, waterproofing installers, bricklayers and forklift operators.

READ MORE: How it’s now easier for non-EU foreigners to work in Spain

Up until now, the only way for third-country nationals to be hired from overseas for a contract job was if employers could not find an EU candidate for the position or if the job was on Spain’s shortage occupation list.

Since 2008, this has been made up almost entirely of jobs in the maritime and shipping industry, but Spanish authorities have now realised that there are many industries that are central to Spain’s economy that are struggling to find workers.

The recruitment plan, spearheaded by Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, also stems from the need to cover jobs that comply with the country’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, which the EU is funding with billions of euros through its Next Generation scheme.

spain construction trade jobs

Some construction associations are calling for young Spaniards to be encouraged to learn a trade, but Spain's construction industry needs highly skilled and experienced workers as soon as possible. (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)

That means finding trade and construction workers with the skills needed to help with refurbishing and building to the latest energy efficiency standards.

According to leading Spanish daily El País, ministry figures point to as many as 246,000 new jobs being up for grabs. The minimum number of craftsmen and other construction workers needed to cover the shortages is 62,000, Spain’s Ministry of Migration reports.

It has not yet been announced how the recruitment process will be carried out. 


The measure doesn’t have the support of Spain’s main trade unions, who criticised that the skills shortage list had been amended “unilaterally and without negotiation”, and even Spain’s Labour Ministry has not given the changes their seal of approval. 

CCOO and UGT union representatives are also sceptical about bringing over workers from overseas for industries which are known for their job instability and sometimes low pay. 

Up to 3.8 million construction jobs were lost when Spain’s property bubble burst in 2008. 

The industry has gradually recovered since then and has around half the workforce as it did back then, but there is still a shortage of workers in specific high-skilled fields and there are currently 42,200 foreign construction workers who are now unemployed in Spain.

Spain also needs to resolve the huge bureaucratic backlogs which are preventing thousands of foreign doctors, engineers, nurses and other skilled workers in regulated professions from working for years, even though the country has serious shortages in those fields as well.

If you are a non-EU national with qualifications and/or experience in a trade or construction job that the Spanish government is looking for, make sure to visit our Working in Spain page to familiarise yourself with salaries, tax and other aspects of having a job in Spain. 

Keep in mind that the majority of foreigners who move to Spain from Europe, North America or Australia do so to enjoy the benefits of the Spanish quality of life, whilst career prospects and jobs are renowned for not being as abundant and well-paid as in other neighbouring countries. 


READ ALSO: The downsides of moving to Spain for work


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