Social Security in Spain

If you work or own a business in Spain, you must, by law, pay into the social security system. Although payments are high, benefits are excellent and the system is comprehensive and covers a multitude of insurances.

The social security system is covering all healthcare, including sickness and maternity; unemployment insurance; old age pensions (the retirement age in Spain is 65 for both men and women); industrial injury compensation; invalidity and death benefits. Your social security payments differ according to whether you're an employee, an employer or self-employed.

The system is outlined below; further details can be found on the Social Security website (, which contains comprehensive information, but is only in Spanish.

There are details of social security regulations and payments for all circumstances. For those starting a company, there's a section called Empresarios; the self-employed section is headed Autónomos. The site also provides contact details for all social security offices throughout the country.


The social security system is very comprehensive and we would suggest that you make arrangements to sort out your payments as soon as you possibly can. For those of you just starting to make your payments, these will cover you for periods of unemployment (for employees), your entire healthcare needs, and any injury payments that come up and state pensions. Paying into the social security system is essential for anyone working in the country, and failure to do so will very likely lead to hefty fines


Employees have the best deal in terms of social security, as a large percentage of their contributions are paid by their employer, the remainder being deducted automatically from their salary. Your contributions are based on official minimum and maximum limits set by the government for each type of work, known as the nómina.

There are specific social security programmers for certain types of worker, such as seamen, civil servants, agricultural workers, military personnel and coal-miners. Most other workers come under the general social security programme. Your employer is legally bound to register you for social security before you start work.


If you have your own business and will be employing others, you must register your company with the social security authorities before you start trading. Once this is done, you will be issued with a social security identification number and the tax office will explain what's required of you as an employer. Employers’ social security contributions on behalf of their staff are high and, of course, they must also make their own contributions.


If you are going to be self-employed, we would warn you that the system is slightly different than for employees. The main difference is that the social security payments are higher because there is no employer to pay the costs. One thing that we would remind those of you who are self-employed is that, contrary to the general scheme in place for employees, there are no unemployment benefits. Also, you are entitled to receive a pension as long as you have been contributing to the scheme for at least fifteen years, and two of these years were in the fifteen years prior to taking retirement. It is also a matter of consideration that even if you earn no money in a particular month, there is still a minimum payment that has to be met. However, a maximum payment also exists, meaning you will never have to pay over a certain amount.

To receive a Spanish pension, you must have contributed to social security for at least 15 years, of which at least two must have been in the 15 years preceding your retirement. The amount of pension you receive is calculated according to your contributions during the last eight years (known as your 'earnings base'), so it's to your advantage to make higher contributions during these eight years. Note that, if you have two different self-employed activities, you must pay social security contributions twice! You will receive much the same benefits as a salaried employee, except that you won't receive unemployment benefit if you're out of work. When you register for social security at your local office, you will be supplied with payment slips so that you can pay your contributions directly into the bank

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