Vast majority of new jobs created in Spain are filled by foreigners

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Vast majority of new jobs created in Spain are filled by foreigners
A delivery worker pushes a trolley in Ronda. Foreigners are taking the new but generally poorly paid jobs that Spaniards don't want. (Photo by JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)

Despite unemployment rates being higher among migrant workers in Spain, the bulk of new positions created are being filled by foreigners as opposed to Spaniards.


The Spanish job market has been performing well as of late, at least in terms of job creation.

With record numbers registered with social security and youth unemployment reaching historic lows, more people are working in Spain than ever before. 

READ ALSO: Spain records lowest unemployment level since 2007

However, new data has revealed that the vast majority of these new positions aren't going to Spaniards.

In fact, a staggering 95 percent of the jobs (85,400 positions of a total 92,700) created in Spain in the first quarter of 2023 were taken by foreigners, according to a report by the CEU-San Pablo University's Demographic Observatory based on data from the Economically Active Population Survey (EPA).

In the entire last year (from the first quarter of 2022 to 2023) this figure was 77 percent: 368,100 jobs were created, 284,400 of which were filled by foreigners.

The foreign workforce in Spain generally has a much higher unemployment rate (19.90 percent) than that of Spaniards (12.15 percent), but migrant workers are dominating the creation of new jobs. 

In 1976, at the very start of Spain's transition to democracy, foreign workers made up a measly 1.3 percent of workers and just 2.6 percent of the population.

Today, foreigners in the Spanish labour market make up 20 percent of the jobs, according to figures from the EPA report. 

Economist Miquel Puig told Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia that this is not a new phenomena as for years Spaniards have tended to aspire to public sector jobs or positions vacated by Spanish retirees, generally not taking up positions in newly created jobs.

"The tourism boom has not created any jobs for Spaniards," Puigs argues, mainly because positions in the tourism and services sector are usually poorly paid and Spaniards are less wiling to take them.

This could also be a structural problem. Professor of Economics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona Josep Oliver told La Vanguardia that this seems to be happening because "the Spanish economy has specialised in low value-added jobs such as services" that can quickly be filled by unskilled migrant labour.

READ ALSO: Growing number of foreigners drives Spain's population rise


Continuing trend

The trend seems set to continue. According to demographic forecasts from Spain's national statistics body (INE), in the next three years net migration levels in Spain will be around half a million people each year.

This combination of high net migration and an abundance of poorly paid jobs being created has been described in the Spanish press as a 'ticking time bomb.' Puig told La Vanguardia that Spain has "an obsession with the creation of jobs."

READ ALSO: Older and more diverse: What Spain's population will be like in 50 years



Regional imbalances

The data also presents some interesting regional disparities across the country.

Almost a third of the total employees in the Balearic Islands are not born in Spain.

With 31.6 percent, it is the region where migrant workers make up the largest proportion of the workforce.

The Canary Islands came in second at 28.2 percent, and next are the most populous cities Spain (Madrid and Barcelona), with 26.5 percent and 24.6 percent respectively. The national average is a rate of 19.9 percent of employees not born in Spain.



Foreigners tend to have lower salaries than Spaniards

What the statistics also show is that immigrants tend to have significantly lower salaries than Spaniards and are more likely to be unemployed.

Equally, within the broader migrants workforce there are also huge differences. African migrants, for example, have an unemployment rate (29 percent) that almost triples that of Asians (11 percent).

By sector, the data shows an enormous migrant labour presence in agriculture and construction, where they occupy about one in four positions, as well as many positions in the tourism and hospitality sectors. 

In the service sector the rate of foreign workers is 16.7 percent. However, in the Spanish public sector foreign migrants are almost non-existent.

In fact, less than one immigrant out of 25 receives a salary from the Spanish state for a public sector job.

READ MORE: Can foreigners become civil servants in Spain?

Of the roughly 5.5 million foreigners residing in Spain, EU citizens make up around 1.6 million, with Romanians being the biggest group with 623,097 residents, followed by Italians (273,889) and Germans (115,099).

Of the non-EU foreigners resident in Spain, Moroccans (883,243), Colombians (314,679) and Britons (293,171) are the largest population groups.

READ ALSO: How Spain is ruining the careers of thousands of qualified foreigners



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