Finding a Job in Spain
by Josephine Quintero
Seeking employment in Spain is not easy, particularly outside the major cities where unemployment is high, Also, if you don't qualify to live and work in Spain as a member of an EC country, then obtaining a residence card can be time-consuming and frustrating. Americans and other foreigners without the automatic right to work in Spain must have their employment approved by the Spanish Ministry of Labour (Ministerio de Trabajo) and obtain a visa before entering the country.
You shouldn't plan on obtaining employment here unless you have a firm job offer, special qualifications or experience for which there is a strong demand. If you are seeking a particularly well paid job then you should speak fluent Spanish. Being attracted to Andalucia by its weather and lifestyle is laudable but doesn't rate highly as an employment qualification.
Many people turn to self-employment or starting a business to make a living, although this path is strewn with pitfalls for the unwary. Many foreigners don't do sufficient homework before moving here. While hoping for the best, you should prepare for the worst case scenario and be sure that you have a contingency plan in place, including sufficient emergency funds to last until you are established.
Most seasonal jobs last for the duration of the summer tourist season, and are the obvious casual or temporary jobs for a few weeks only, primarily working in the obvious tourism industry, such as in bars, restaurants and clubs. In addition there are jobs as couriers and tour guides, and sports instructors but Spanish fluency is generally required.
On the Costa del Sol, hotels, bars and restaurants are by far the largest employers of seasonal workers and jobs are available year round, from hotel managers to kitchen hands. Experience, qualifications and fluent Spanish are required for all the better and higher paid positions, although a variety of jobs are available for the untrained and inexperienced. Be warned that if accommodation with cooking facilities or full board isn't provided with a job, it can be expensive, particularly during the summer when you are competing with seasonal tourists willing to pay a high price for break.
Couriers and Tour Reps
One of the best sources of seasonal work for foreigners is as a courier or representative for a foreign package holiday company and various jobs at holiday camps and campsites. Competition for jobs is fierce and Spanish fluency is usually necessary, even for employment with foreign tour operators. Most companies have age requirements, the minimum being 21, although many companies prefer employees to be older. To find out which companies operate in Andalucia (Costa del Sol) check the brochures, check out the brochures in your local travel agency and send in your application well before the season starts.
If you scan the local English language newspapers, you will see that 75% of the jobs available are in the timeshare industry. Don't be immediately put off, while there are plenty of sharks and scams, there are also several reputable time share companies that have many years of success behind them and provide contracts, good commission rates and opportunities for promotion to their staff. However, all timeshare companies offer the hard sell approach to prospective buyers and if you are uncomfortable with this then maybe you should stick to encyclopaedias!
English language teachers are in huge demand in Spain, where learning English has become obsessive in the last decade. Almost all private language academies insist on a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification, although occasionally you may get away with a degree in English instead and, occasionally, you can get a job merely on the strength of the fact that you are British – although obviously, this is not the sign of a particularly reputable school and you may have problems later on. Many foreign language schools have branches here, including Linguarama and often require applicants to attend their own teacher training courses. Many teaching jobs, particularly those in smaller schools, are advertised only locally and those advertised abroad tend to be for the larger schools, international agencies and government institutions. Information about language schools in Andalucia (and the rest of Spain) is available by writing to: Centros de Enseñanzza de Idiomas, Calle Sagasta, 27, 28004 Madrid. Language schools are also listed in the local Yellow Pages under Escuelas Idiomas.
There is a high demand for private English teachers here and many teachers employed at local language academies supplement their income by giving private lessons. You can advertise in local schools, universities and retail outlets and, once you're established, additional students can usually be found through word of mouth, particularly for children who have failed their end of year English examinations!
Both men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 are eligible for a job as an au pair. The au pair system provides young people with a great opportunity to travel, improve their Spanish and generally broaden their education by living and working in Andalucia. However, the main aim of the au pair system is to give young people the opportunity to learn a foreign language in a typical family environment . Au pairs are usually contracted to work for a minimum of six months and a maximum of a year. Most families require an au pair for at least the whole school year, from September to June. The best time to look for an au pair position therefore is before the beginning of the school year in September. Au pair agencies in Britain are listed in the Au Pair and Nanny's Guide to Working Abroad by Susan Griffith.
Illegal working thrives in Spain where it has been estimated that the turnover of the black economy equals around 25% of the official GNP and real unemployment is at least 10% less than the official figure. Many unscrupulous employers use illegal labour in order to avoid the high social security contributions and pay low wages for long hours and poor working conditions. Heavy fines are often imposed when offenders (employer and employee) are prosecuted so be warned!