Spain: New findings on labour market performance of university graduates

The 2013–2014 annual report providing data on the Spanish university system focuses on the graduates of the 2005–2006 academic year, describing their subsequent labour market situation, including unemployment rates, self-employment, type of contract, income and mobility. In general, the data show that working conditions improve after a few years of work experience.

In February 2014, the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports published a new edition of its annual report providing basic data on the Spanish university system (in Spanish) for the 2013–2014 academic year. This year's report focuses on the labour market situation of workers who graduated from university in the 2005–2006  academic year. Their situation is evaluated one, three and five years after their graduation.

Employment rate

In 2012, 39.7% of the population between 20 and 24 years of age with university-level education were unemployed (37.9% in the case of men and 40.9% in the case of women). As age increases, the unemployment rate decreases progressively; the unemployment rate of those aged over 55 years with a university-level education was 8.1%.

The data make a clear link between the economic crisis and the worsening of recent graduates’ initial access to the labour market between 2007 and 2012. Among the 2005–2006 graduates, 58% were registered as workers in the social security system in 2007 (that is, one year after their graduation). A few years later, the percentage was higher (70.9% in 2011 and 70% in 2012). By contrast, of the students who graduated in the 2010–2011 academic year, 49% were registered as workers in the social security system in the first year after their graduation. This is almost 10 percentage points lower than the corresponding percentage for the 2005–2006 graduates.

Salaried employment

The percentage of salaried employees among 2005–2006 graduates was largely stable from 2007 to 2012; between 92% and 94% were registered as such in the social security system. The proportion of self-employed workers has traditionally been fairly low: 6.1% in 2007 and 7.8% in 2012. These figures show how self-employment has been barely affected by the economic crisis, remaining stable in the period 2007–2012.

Turning to the types of jobs that workers with university-level education have, the data show that one year after graduating, nearly half (48.1%) of the 2005–2006 graduates occupied posts that required a university degree, 23.5% occupied posts of requiring medium-level qualifications and 28.4% jobs requiring low-level qualifications. This situation improved a few years later: in 2012, 60.4% of the 2005–2006 graduates occupied posts that required a university degree; 16.8%, however, still had low-qualification jobs.


Significant differences exist between the income of graduates when they first start work and their income five or six years later. In 2007, one year after graduation, almost half (49%) of the 2005–2006 graduates had an income subject to social security contributions lower than €1,500. Six years after graduation, in 2012, this figure decreased to 25%. These data indicate how working conditions improve among university graduates after a few years of work experience. 

Looking at type of contract, 41% of the graduates had a full-time open-ended contract one year after graduation, 35.9% a full-time temporary contract, 15.3% a part-time temporary contract and 7.8% a part-time open-ended contract. The fields with the highest volume of open-ended contracts were social sciences, trade and law (57.2%) and sciences (51.2%). Five years later, the graduates' labour market situation had improved considerably: the proportion with full-time open-ended contracts increased to 56%, whereas the share with temporary contracts (both full time and part time) decreased to 35.7%.

Table 1. Some aspects of working conditions among workers who graduated in the 2005–2006 academic year, 2007 and 2012
    2007 2012
Self-employment Salaried employees 93.9% 92.2%
Self-employed 6.1% 7.8%
Educational level required for the post University-level education 48.1% 60.4%
Medium-level education 23.5% 22.8%
Low qualifications 28.4% 16.8%
Type of contract Open-ended and full-time 41.0% 56.0%
Open-ended and part-time 7.8% 8.4%
Temporary and full-time 35.9% 26.1%
Temporary and part-time 15.3% 9.6%

Source: Datos básicos del sistema universitario español: Curso 2013-2014, author's calculations.

Finally, concerning mobility of workers, 79.7% of the 2005–2006 graduates worked in the same autonomous community in 2007. Five years later, this share had decreased slightly, with 76.5% working in the same autonomous community in 2012, probably as a consequence of the economic crisis. Interestingly, the percentage of workers who graduated in 2010–2011 and who remained working in the same autonomous community one year after graduation was a little lower (74.9% in 2012).


These findings suggest that labour conditions improve as university graduates gain work experience. However, the economic downturn has negatively affected working conditions: the labour market situation initially faced by 2010–2011 graduates has been more difficult than that faced by the 2005–2006 graduates. In any case, it seems that the crisis has not encouraged either self-employment or internal mobility within the Spanish labour market among workers with university-level education.

Background note

Most of the information included in the report on Spanish universities is available in the Integrated System of University Information (SIIU), which is compiled by the General Secretariat of Universities, together with autonomous communities and universities. The SIIU is an already consolidated system that describes all the resources and services offered by the institutions that form the Spanish university system. The SIIU makes it possible to access homogenous and comparable high-quality data, in order to compare Spanish universities at both national and international levels.

The 2013–2014 report is the latest in a whole series that provides indicators of the labour participation and progress of university graduates. The analysis was based on the ‘Continuous Sample of Working Lives’; this sample is a collection of data of the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, extracted from the National Social Security Register, which serves as a representative sample of registrations, contributions, allowances, types of contracts, share of self-employed workers and so on. Looking into the future, the authors of the report state that over the next few years it will be possible to broaden the scope of the information available and to compare data and trends.




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