For members


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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For members


The help that self-employed in Spain can apply for in 2023

Anyone who is self-employed in Spain knows it's tough. Fortunately, there are several grants and benefits available to autónomos and small businesses this year to help you out.

The help that self-employed in Spain can apply for in 2023

There are 3,329,863 autónomos or self-employed people in Spain, but according to the Asociación de Trabajadores Autónomos, Spain’s self-employed union, more than 2 million self-employed workers (which is 63 percent of them) have an income that is below Spain’s Interprofessional Minimum Wage (SMI).

READ ALSO: Spain to raise minimum wage by 8 percent

With self-employed workers earning so little and having to pay very high monthly social security payments, which go down €200 a month for lower earners and progressively higher – up to €590 a month for higher earners, many may be forced to look for support where they can. 

What benefits and help are available?

Spain offers a whole host of benefits and help for self-employed people, including the following, which are all available this year.

Starting a new company

Grants of up €10,000 are available to people to help them launch a new business or company. The exact amount varies, and they are aimed at helping unemployed young people aged 30 years or younger, unemployed women, unemployed people with disabilities, and unemployed women with disabilities.

In the case of victims of gender violence, grants can be boosted by 10 percent.

Investment subsidies

There is also aid to help you finance investments. The subsidies work out equivalent to a 4 percent reduction on the interest rate set by the body or business that grants the loan, with the subsidy limit being a maximum of €10,000.


If a self-employed person wishes to undertake some extra training to improve their business or career prospects, they can apply for aid that covers up to 75 percent of the cost up to a maximum of €3,000.

READ ALSO – REVEALED: Everything you need to know about applying for Spain’s digital nomad visa


The Spanish government also offers a so-called ‘Digital Kit’, which can be accessed through grants of up to €2,000 to help ‘digitalise’ a business to make it more competitive. These grants are intended for things such as creating a website or e-commerce platform, managing social networks, installing cybersecurity or upgrading systems.

The ‘zero quota’

As many of you probably already know, in Spain self-employed people not only pay quarterly income tax (IRPF in Spain) but must also pay a monthly social security payment. You can read all about that and upcoming changes to the system here, but note that some regions offer to waive this fee in order to promote entrepreneurism.

READ ALSO: New self-employed workers in Madrid to pay no social security tax

Madrid, Andalusia and Murcia all do, and the Balearic Islands will do it for self-employed people under 35 and for women entrepreneurs. These grants effectively mean the region picks up the tab for your monthly fee. It is available for one year and extendable by another 12 months if the recipient’s net income is lower than the SMI.

Minimum Vital Income

Since January, the number of self-employed people who can access the Minimum Vital Income has also increased. This benefit is compatible with income from self-employment and has also been increased. If you qualify, you could get an extra €565.37 per month for a single person without kids and more if you have children. You can find out more about it here