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Spain, particularly for British expats, is a no-questions-asked destination to migrate to. The simple joys of Spanish living draw many to the sunny destination which boasts cultural cities, picturesque beaches, and a relaxed way of living. Furthermore, with the cost of living in Spain lower than that of the UK, it seems like a wise move for a better life.
The Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank, release their global Prosperity Index annually. The survey ranks the most prosperous countries in the world. Many assume prosperity is used in reference to the financial standing of a country and, while this is included, the Legatum Institute considers more factors in its ranking.
Ranking in 24th place this year (out of 142 countries) was Spain. This puts Spain in the top 16%, with its rankings for education, personal freedom, and social capital helping the country rank so well. Economy is not Spain’s strongest category, for which it ranks in 37th place. Entrepreneurship and opportunity also isn’t a strong area for Spain, in 30th place.
With Spain receiving beautiful summer weather, and the chance to enjoy a siesta on elongated lunch breaks, it is understandable as to why many move there. But, how much does it really cost to live in Spain?
The Spanish economy is the fifth largest in the EU, and fourteenth largest GDP in the world. Spain is one of Europe’s economic bright spots and, even without a fully-fledged government in place, it is on track to expand 3% by the end of 2016. However, political uncertainty is predicted to put a halt to growth in 2017. Come the new year, experts predict that Spain will need to tighten its belt and trim spending to meet budget targets set by the EU.
However, since the budget crisis of 2007 and 2008, and Spain’s subsequent recession, the economy of the country has improved significantly. In 2015, the Spanish GDP grew by 3.2% – a rate not seen before the turmoil that began in 2007. Between 2014 and 2015, Spain managed to recover 85% of the GDP lost in the recession, with international analysts referring to Spain’s resurrection as ‘the showcase for structural reform efforts’.
Before 1999, Spain’s currency was the peseta. However, this was replaced by the euro (€) and is often represented as EUR. The euro is also used by nineteen of the twenty-eight member states of the European Union, which is handy for Spanish citizens and expats travelling to the likes of Germany, France, Finland, and Greece.
The euro is divided into 100 cents, often called euro cents, to distinguish them from the cents of other currencies. Cents are available in 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c, and 1c coins. €2 and €1 coins are also in circulation. There are seven euro notes, in denominations of €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10, and €5. Each bank note has its own colour and is dedicated to an artistic period of European architecture.
Adopting a single currency has some great benefits, such as removing the cost of exchanging money and allowing businesses to trade easily.
Whether arriving in Spain as an individual or as a family, many choose to rent initially. Finding good quality and reasonably priced homes is relatively easy, but prices will inevitably vary depending on location. The rule of thumb is that the closer you live to a city centre, the higher the rent will be. For expats sent to Spain by their employer, it is best to secure accommodation in your new contract. Many individuals house share with other expats, which can be achieved with online searches. When renting in Spain, contracts are often a minimum of a year and two to six months’ worth of rent will need to be paid upfront.
Buying property in Spain is not an issue, but it is always best for expats to get legal advice. Do not rely on information provided by an estate agent. English speaking lawyers can be found in Spain and they can help house buying run seamlessly. New apartments can often be on the small side, so it is advised to invest in older properties, as they benefit from large rooms, and often come with outside terraces.
Expats living and working in Spain are entitled to Spain’s free state healthcare. This is covered by social security contributions which are deducted from wages and expats will only have to pay for prescriptions. The Spanish healthcare system is rated one of the best in the world, and most hospitals and healthcare centres offer both public and private treatment. Expats do not need private medical insurance to get medical treatment in Spain but it can allow for faster treatment and referrals.
For expats wanting to receive state healthcare, they must first register with social security, to obtain a social security number. Expats will need to provide their passport, residency certificate, and completed application form, as well as registering their details at their local town hall.
When visiting a hospital of medical centre, expats will need to show their social security card or proof of private medical insurance. We offer three private medical insurance plans to suit the needs of different expats.
Education is compulsory for children aged six to sixteen in Spain, and expat parents will need to weigh up the variety of options available before securing a place for their child. Public schools are championed in Spain for having a very similar standard of teaching to that of private schools. As long as parents and their children are registered at their local town hall, expat children can secure a place in a public school, with parents only having to pay for extracurricular activities, uniform, and equipment.
Most classes in public schools are taught in Spanish, which is ideal for young children of expat families who plan on being in Spain for the foreseeable future. It allows children to pick up the language quickly and integrate into Spanish society with ease.
Spain also has both semi-private and private schools. Semi-private schools are former private schools which are now subsidised by the Spanish government. The fees are very low and classes are often small, allowing for greater teacher contact. Fees in private schools are higher, and both will have lessons taught in Spanish. However, there are some bi-lingual schools so it can be best to do extensive research.
Lastly, for parents who want their children to study an international curriculum, or curriculum of their home country, there are international schools. Fees are very expensive, but it can help with educational continuity. Most cities in Spain have international facilities, many of which are British. It is best for expat parents to contact these schools in advance, and bring school reports and immunisation records to any international school interviews.
The majority of Spanish drivers tend to make their own rules on the road and this, teamed with all street signs being in Spanish, can prove a little tricky for expats wanting to own a car in Spain. It can be done but, as the public transport network is extensive, there is little need. If you desire your own wheels and live in Barcelona or Seville, invest in a bicycle. These cities are known for having excellent cycling lanes and bike storage facilities.
Trains, buses, and taxis are used extensively in Spain by expats and locals alike. Urban and inner city areas have extensive bus routes, and passengers can buy tickets online. Taxis are widely available and reasonably priced, but expats should be aware of being mistaken for tourists and charged extra. However, most taxi drivers provide an excellent service.
In terms of trains, there is a high-speed network (ACE) which provides transport between all the largest cities, as well as a route to France. It is not the cheapest way of travelling in Spain, but it is by far the quickest and most convenient way to get around. There are also regional and urban networks, and numerous towns and cities have light rail or subway systems. The metro system in Madrid is said to be one of the best in the world. Barcelona, Zaragoza, and Seville also benefit from tram systems.
Although Spain’s unemployment level is not catastrophic when you compare it to the rest of the world, it is a problem when you view the data of countries within the same region. In 2006 and 2007, Spain’s unemployment rate was 8%. However, during the economic crisis a year later, Spain’s rate of unemployment grew quickly. In 2010, Spain’s unemployment rate was at 20%, escalating to 25% in 2012. Currently, Spain’s unemployment rate is 20%, but by 2020 it is predicted this will have fallen to 14.9%.
Spain suffers from a high level of structural unemployment, which is the main cause of the issue. Before the recession, the employment level never dipped below 8%. Spain’s economy is based mostly on tourism and building sectors, and the country suffers from a lack of industry.
Youth unemployment is the biggest cause for concern in Spain. So, for expats who have just graduated, you will be battling against Spanish citizens of the same age also desperate for their first post-graduate job. However, consulting and IT sectors have seen a rise in recruitment.
For those who do not fit into the youth category, chances of getting a job in Spain are heightened. There are certain sectors in Spain where vacancies are not being filled due to lack of highly skilled individuals. Language teachers are highly sought after, and there are areas of the medical, industrial, media development, and tourist industries that are seeking expert expats.
Many people are put off by working hours spanning from 9am until as late as 8pm in Spain. However, the average working week is often a standard 40 hours, and there are long lunch breaks between 2pm to 4 or even 5pm.
The world’s largest database, Numbeo, has a vast selection of user contributed data in regards to Spain. Compared to the UK, groceries, transport, and eating out are a little less costly than the UK.
The tables below provide an over view of the differences in costs between Spain and the UK. Please note that all Spanish prices have been converted into British pounds.
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