E.g., 04/24/2024
E.g., 04/24/2024
Turning a Corner? How Spain Can Help Immigrants Find Middle-Skilled Work

In the 1990s and early to mid-2000s, an economic boom sparked a surge of immigration to Spain. Many newcomers quickly found jobs in areas like construction and domestic services, and as a result, the boom became a disincentive to investing in large-scale, coordinated labor market integration efforts. When the economic crisis of 2008 disproportionately hit those in temporary and informal work, including many immigrants, it revealed the underlying gaps in the policy framework meant to support labor market integration in Spain.

This report is part of a research project funded by the European Union and conducted in collaboration with the International Labour Office. The case studies in the first phase of the project consider the influence of individual characteristics and broader economic conditions on the employment prospects of foreign-born workers. The reports in the second phase evaluate the effectiveness of integration and workforce development policies in helping foreign-born workers overcome these barriers and move up into middle-skilled positions that pay a family-sustaining wage. The six case study countries are the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.


This project is funded by the European Union

During the boom years, workforce development programs and integration policies were decentralized and language policy was a low priority as the majority of immigrants already spoke Spanish. Unlike other European countries, Spain has traditionally allocated more employment service resources to passive policies and employer subsidies than to training or guidance, which has been detrimental to native and immigrant job seekers alike. The crisis highlighted the need to invest in comprehensive mainstream and targeted policies that enable workers to enter permanent, high-quality employment.

As Spain recovers from the recession, the national government has undertaken measures to promote the reintegration of immigrant and other disadvantaged workers into the labor market, primarily through training. At the regional level, there has also been a movement toward developing specific initiatives for new immigrants, with a focus on language courses and orientation programs. 

This report examines how well recent policies are working to fill these gaps to help immigrants move into more stable work. It provides an overview of the labor market and integration policy in Spain and assesses the effectiveness of these policies, focusing on employment services, language education, and vocational training. Finally, the report concludes with recommendations for further policy refinement, including improved recognition of foreign credentials and easier access to employment services and training.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Immigration to Spain during the 2000s: A Decade of Growth and Hidden Risks

III. Integration Policy in a Decentralized System

IV. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Policies Affecting Immigrants' Labor Market Outcomes

A. Employment Services

B. Language Training

C. Vocational Training

V. Conclusions