I once had an argument with an English friend who suggested that the Spanish don’t work very hard. He thought they spent half their working day having a siesta. I told him that having worked in two companies in Spain, I could say without a doubt that the Spanish work much longer hours than the British and appeared equally, if not more, stressed as a result.
I worked as an English teacher in both companies. The second was a multi-million dollar marketing company, that invoiced its clients hundreds of thousands of euros at a time. By just floating in for a few hours a day (max 24 per week), I earned more than most of the main-floor cubicle workers I was teaching, who worked 60 hour weeks, might come in at weekends without extra renumeration, and were lucky to earn 1,000 euros a month.
They are the so-called mileuristas (great article in El Pais), late-20′s to thirty-somethings with a degree, maybe even a Masters, probably an extra language or two to their name, who just can’t break the 1,000 euros a month barrier no matter who they are working for. Inflation rises, house prices go through the roof, yet salaries in Spain just don’t budge. How is that possible, even when multi-nationals are writing the wage cheques?
Can’t answer that one, but here are a few more things you might not know about work in Spain:
- Many companies still enforce an hour and a half lunch break (as if everyone still worked round the corner from home and wanted to pop back for lunch – now the exception rather than the norm).
- It is still common for women to get paid less for doing the same job as their male colleagues. A female director in the above-mentioned multi-national I worked for said this is because the man is seen as the head of his family, and will need more money to support his household, including, presumably, his low-earning wife.
- Once you get off the cubicle floor and into a managerial position you will earn a more realistic wage, but you’ll be expected to give up the rest of your life to earn it. Don’t expect to be home before 10 at night.
- Working from home is uncommon, but pilot schemes in some companies do let people stay at home once or twice a week.
- A yearly salary is usually split into 14 payments: one per month, and an extra payment of the same amount, the paga extraordinaria, paid once in June or July and once at Christmas.
Working in a Spanish company is tough. You are expected to work long hours for low wages, no matter who you are working for. Multi-million dollar international marketing firm? They’ll pay you little and take their cash for the shareholders, thanks. A Spanish friend of ours works for a multi-million dollar tech company, just outside Madrid, as a mid-level IT consultant with 6 years experience. She has been placed there by her consultancy firm, a large French company. Should be driving a BMW, right? Wrong. She earns less than 2,000 euros a month, probably half what she would earn for the same job in the UK.
If you want an easy life in a Spanish company you have two options. Be the chauffeur driven CEO, or the lowly English teacher.
How does life in your company/country compare?