August 24, 2016 No Comments

Unemployed In The UK… But It Is So Hard To Find A Job In Spain?

I get a little irritated when I see a newcomer post on an expat forum describing how he/she is planning to move to Spain and asks about work prospects. Typically the questions will receive a deluge of immediate replies from long-term expats (and therefore experts?) that are so overwhelmingly negative, I expect the poor question asker completely abandoned their idea of moving to a warmer climate and hopefully a better standard of living in five minutes flat, with their tails firmly between their legs, as the epats/experts become more excitable as the asker attempts to explain why they think they can succeed at their dream, i.e. “I have savings that will support me for three months”; or “I have trained as a nursery nurse”; or the one that really seems to rile the expats, “my mother and step-dad live in Spain, and they say it isn’t so hard…”

The hard facts

Spanish unemployment currently runs at around 21% with unemployment among youths reaching a staggering 46%. The UK unemployment rate is around 5.1%, with youth unemployment at around 13.7%.

If you want to move to Spain because you live in the UK and are unemployed, it is probably not the best move for you right now. The truth is, you are far more likely to find work in a country where you speak the language and know people, where there is quite a low level of unemployment, than move to a country where you do not speak the language, do not have contacts, and the level of unemployment is very high.

There could be an exception to this of course, It could be you are having a problem finding work locally because you live in a very rural location without any job openings whatsoever. Or maybe you have just finished college and are not ultra clear if your chosen career is the right move and wish to take a step back for a while. Either of these are legitimate reasons to think you might be better off working in Spain although you are currently unemployed in the UK (or your home country).

Spain is a country “Sin beneficios!”

However, you must be very aware that if you come to Spain and things do not work out for you, there are no benefits. You cannot go to the nearest social security office and sign up for job seeker’s allowance or any other type of benefit. These simply do not exist in Spain.

You will only receive benefits in Spain if you have already paid into the system as an employee – not as an employer, but as an employee. This means you worked for a period of at least six months with a legal contract and became unemployed or laid off through no fault of your own. Having no work, no money, no food, and no accommodation in Spain will not entitle you to anything.

Move closer to home first

For that reason, I would suggest you think about seeking work in another part of the UK before making the move to Spain. This would get you used to being out of your comfort zone and in to working within a community outside that of your own – so if you live in a Scottish village with little or no work prospects, how about moving to an English city and seeking work in in a Spanish-owned tapas bar? Or finding work minding kids for a Spanish family living in London? Or work in a fast food outlet while taking evening Spanish lessons? There are plenty of things you can do in the UK to earn money, get some savings behind you, and learn skills which will improve your chances when you do make the move to Spain. There is work in the UK, albeit maybe not in your area. Prove to yourself you can get a job at home before moving abroad. You will increase your confidence and skill set.

Make connections before you come to Spain

Spain is a country, where like it or not,  nepotism is alive and well. Therefore, like it or not, your luck in finding a job will depend largely on who you know rather than what you know.

You might think it is impossible to make contacts and get referrals for work when you are living abroad, but the internet and social networking makes the world a very small place. Join Facebook groups related to the areas you would like to live, and post regularly so people will get to know you a little. Mention you are looking for work and be sure to point out your skills what you have to offer a company. LinkdIn, the careers networking site is another useful resource where you will find contacts that may be able to help you in your job search. Above all, don’t be shy and market yourself at every opportunity!


Don’t think of this as yet another “Don’t come here, finding work in Spain is impossible” response.  My reply is, in short, yes it is hard to find work in Spain, and that’s regardless if you are employed in the UK or not. But having said that, it is not impossible, and thousands of people move to towns and villages up and down the Spanish coasts and cities and find work they enjoy every year. However, preparing yourself mentally and building a skill set that will be interesting to an employer in Spain is of utmost importance if you are moving to Spain and hoping to find work under the current economic climate.

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