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In Numbers: Where are Spain’s self-employed foreign workers from?

The number of foreigners registered as autónomo in Spain continued to grow in 2022, but how many are there, which countries do they come from and what industries do they work in?

In Numbers: Where are Spain’s self-employed foreign workers from?
Where are Spain's self-employed workers from? Photo: Daniel Thomas / Unsplash

Spain is not an easy country to be self-employed in with high social security fees, high tax rates, lots of bureaucracy forcing you to hire an accountant and the need to submit tax returns five times a year. 

Despite this, the latest government stats show that Spain has around 3.3 million registered freelancers and many foreigners choose to set up businesses and become self-employed here too. 

READ ALSO – Self-employed in Spain: What you should know about being ‘autónomo’

The number of foreign professionals who chose Spain to set up their own businesses and become self-employed in 2022 continued to grow. 

The latest data from the affiliation to the Special Regime for Self-Employed Workers (RETA) published by Social Security, reveals an increase of 20,293 foreign self-employed workers last year, reaching a total of 406,382 self-employed workers from other countries.

Out of these, 162,066 are from the EU. According to the stats, the majority of EU self-employed workers in Spain hail from Romania, Italy and Germany. Romania takes the lead with 45,061 self-employed workers in Spain, followed by Italy with 35,879 and then Germany with 17,266. 

The remaining 244,316 foreign freelance workers were from non-EU countries. The majority of these were from China with a total of 62,045. Morocco came in second place with 27,313, then the UK with 26,589. In fourth place was Venezuela with 17,056 and then Colombia, which, at the end of last year, had 11,759 registered freelancers in Spain. 

“This is a record figure, which has never been seen before, and it is good news that shows that foreigners want to contribute and continue working,” Guillermo Guerrero, director of the Emprender Siendo Extranjero association, told the newspaper Autónomos y Emprendedor.

Guerrero believes the main cause of the record number of self-employed foreigners in Spain was due to the change to the Immigration Law, which came into force in August 2022, and means that immigrants can now obtain a residence permit or gain access to temporary residence due to labour ties. The reform also now allows foreign students to start contributing as self-employed.

READ ALSO: Will you pay more under Spain’s new social security rates for self-employed?

The growth in the number of foreigners registered as freelancers in 2022 lies in stark contrast to the figures for the total number of self-employed workers in Spain in 2022, which was the lowest number seen in a decade. 

Lorenzo Amor, president of the National Federation of Self-Employed Workers Associations (ATA), described last year’s closure as “terrible”, and said that this could be “an early indicator of how the situation will evolve in the coming months.”

Who are the self-employed foreigners in Spain?

At the end of 2022, 252,412 foreign freelancers were men, compared to 153,970 women. This means that 62 percent of self-employed workers from outside Spain are men, a proportion that is similar to the autónomos in Spain as a whole, where women represent only around 36 percent. 

The majority of these work in the commerce sector, with 99,273 registered at the end of 2022. This is followed by those in the hospitality industry, with 69,920, construction with 56,550, and other services with 30,774.

The stats also show the majority of self-employed foreigners live in Catalonia and Madrid followed by Valencia, Andalusia, the Canary Islands, and the Balearic Islands. 

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Spain to raise minimum wage by 8 percent

Spain's government unveiled Tuesday an 8.0 percent rise in the minimum wage, despite the opposition of employer groups, in a context of high inflation and a key election year.

Spain to raise minimum wage by 8 percent

The announcement by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez comes just months before municipal polls in various regions and a general election which is due by the year’s end.

“We’re going to approve a new 8.0 percent increase in the minimum wage to reach €1,080” gross across 14 months, Sánchez told the Senate upper house of parliament.

Spain traditionally makes salary payments in 14 monthly payments per year, with the extra paychecks typically paid in July and December.

“We are respecting our commitment” to raise the minimum wage “to 60 percent of the average Spanish salary,” he said.

Split across 12 months, that would equate to a gross payment of €1,260.

Although the unions had been pushing for €1,100 over 14 months, they hailed the announcement.

“There will be some 2.5 million beneficiaries and it will have a greater impact on women, young people, those with temporary contracts or working in agriculture or the service sectors,” tweeted CCOO union boss Unai Sordo.

Talks on raising the minimum wage were boycotted by employers groups on grounds their concerns were not being taken into account.

“Let them just give us the figure and get it over with,” grumbled Antonio Garamendi, head of the CEOE business lobby in remarks to reporters.

The new increase in the minimum wage comes against a backdrop of high inflation, even though price hikes have slowed significantly in recent months.

Inflation stood at 5.8 percent in January, after peaking at 10.8 percent in July, the highest level in 38 years.

The announcement comes ahead of a busy electoral year for Spain with various municipal polls in May and a general election by the year’s end, although no date has yet been set.

Sánchez was quick to flag his government’s efforts to raise the minimum wage since taking office in 2018.

“We have raised it by 36 percent, that’s to say from €735 when we entered government to €1,000 gross over 14 months, and always in the face of staunch opposition from the neo-liberals,” he said.