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Work Culture and Labour Market for Expats in Spain

Submitted: August 2013

Work Culture

Each business has its own specific work culture. However, there are certain traits that are common to most professional environments in Spain.

Most Spanish companies and organisations still have a hierarchical structure with clear-cut divisions between ranks. Primary authority thus rests with senior decision-makers who rarely engage with their colleagues of lower ranks. Hence, the communication style among colleagues of the same rank is usually relaxed and informal, while a more formal tone is used with senior managers.

Workers are expected to work independently and personal accountability is key. In recent years, however, certain companies – particularly those run by younger managers – have started to place greater importance on teamwork.

Business meetings should be arranged a few weeks in advance and are best scheduled before siesta time. They are usually formal in structure but always contain elements of social talk before serious topics are addressed. It is common to shake hands at the beginning of the meeting and to exchange business cards. Make sure to address your business partners with Señor/Señora followed by their respective last names, and add their academic titles if known.

Another thing to bear in mind is that Spanish clocks tend to run a bit slower; it is not unusual for business meetings to start a quarter of an hour or even half an hour late. At the same time, the Spanish do generally expect their foreign counterparts to arrive on time, so you are still advised to be punctual – and patient.

Patience is also a virtue during negotiations as these can be lengthy. Proposals get reviewed by all stakeholders and you might have to go through several meetings before a deal can be reached. In this respect it is also important to mention that the Spanish place great importance on personal connections and will likely want to get to know you better before doing business with you. However, a good thing to remember is that the Spanish generally do not like to discuss business during business meals since those are meant to be social occasions.

Finally, keep in mind that networking is an integral part of the Spanish business culture. There are numerous business groups and professional associations in Spain. To read more on this, see: Business Groups, Associations and Networking.

 

Labour Market

Spain was hit very hard by the worldwide recession and continues to suffer from its repercussions. Unemployment peaked in January 2013 at 27%. There are now signs of slow recovery as the unemployment rate has now started to fall, and in July 2014 went below 24%. This is still a highly problematic rate, and one of the highest in Europe. Meanwhile, the youth unemployment rate is alarming – an estimated 53% of the 15-24 year olds are without employment; furthermore this figure has fallen only slightly.

The unemployment situation is especially bad in the southern regions and islands, areas most expats head for. Of the few positions available, the National Employment Office (Instituto Nacional de Empelo) must by law give preference to Spanish, EEA or Swiss nationals. On the other hand, if you have a highly skilled job or a position that is in short supply in Spain, for example, translation or teaching a foreign language, vacancies should be easier to find.

Expats who find themselves unemployed in Spain might be entitled to receive unemployment benefits. They will need to have previously been employed in Spain for at least one year and paid their social security contributions. In this case, they must register with SEPE within 15 days after becoming unemployed by completing the application form PR-AIN/03-279-S. Those that were employed for less than a year might be entitled to apply for an unemployment subsidy (Subsidio por Desempleo) under certain circumstances. For more information contact your local SEPE office or see: https://www.sepe.es/contenido/prestaciones/ag00.html

To read more about finding employment and writing applications in Spain have a look at Finding a Job, CVs, Interviews and Etiquette for Expats in Spain. For more information on working conditions and immigration procedures for expat workers in Spain see Expats Working In Spain.

 

 




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