Employment situation of young people

Young people aged between 15 and 29 years represent 21% of the total Spanish population. As such, they represent a critical part of the national workforce. Nevertheless, according to a new report on youth employment, this group of persons have difficulty in accessing the labour market, due to social and economic constraints .

In May 2006, the Spanish Institute for Youth (Instituto de la Juventud, Injuve) published a report entitled Youth and employment (in Spanish, 133Kb PDF). The study examines the current employment situation of young people in Spain, and is divided into four sections, each section addressing a major issue relating to employment. Section one identifies the main occupations of Spanish young people, section two provides information on their first job experiences, section three analyses their job search strategies, and the last section provides a general assessment of the Spanish labour market from the perspective of young people.

The report is based on a broad survey conducted among 1,469 young people aged between 15 and 29 years, randomly surveyed in 115 Spanish municipalities during the first quarter of 2006. The main results of the report are summarised below.

Main occupations of young Spanish people

Some 39% of young Spanish people are working, while 32% are currently studying. At the same time, 14% of young people report that they are looking for a job, while 11% combine studies and work.

Figure 1: Main occupations of young Spanish people


Source: Injuve, 2006

About half of the young people who work cannot afford to live independently of their parents. Moreover, two thirds of unemployed young people do not receive any unemployment benefit.

First job experiences

By the first quarter of 2006, around 71% of young Spanish people had held at least one paid job, while the remaining 29% had never done so. The average age of young people holding their first remunerated job is about 18 years old. In general, it takes more than seven months for young people to find their first job.

An important issue is the lack of relationship between the first job and the person’s academic background. Some 69% of respondents reported that their first job bore no relation to what they had studied, compared with 21% of the respondents whose first position was very relevant to their education. However, the relationship between job content and academic background increases as young people grow older, especially among those with a university education.

Type of contract

According to the survey results, 66.1% of young people signed a temporary employment contract for their first job, with no significant differences in this respect in terms of sex or age (see Table below). Only 10.2% of the young people signed a permanent employment contract for their first job.

Table: Contract characteristics of first job (%)
Contract characteristics of first job (%)
  Total Sex Age
Male Female 15–19 years 20–24 years 25–29 years
Permanent 10.2 9.6 10.9 6.0 9.2 12.1
Part-time permanent 2.0 1.6 2.5 1.3 2.6 1.7
Temporary 66.1 68.1 63.7 53.7 69.6 67.1
No contract 19.0 17.5 21.0 36.4 17.4 15.2
Self-employed 2.3 3.1 1.3 2.0 0.8 3.5
Don’t know / N/A 0.4 0.2 0.6 0.7 0.3 0.4
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0

Source: Injuve, 2006

It is worth noting that 19% of the young people surveyed did not sign any employment contract for their first job; this percentage is higher among very young people (15–19 years old) and women.

After the first job experience, almost half of the young people (48%) continue to work on a temporary basis; at the same time, the proportion of permanent contracts increases after the first job, to represent an overall total of 40%. In subsequent jobs, the type of contract varies by sex, as 11% of young women continue to report working without an employment contract, compared with only 5% of men.

Average weekly working hours among young people (36.5 hours) are lower than the official working week (40 hours).

Views on first job experience

Young people’s assessment of their first job is not very positive, either in terms of salary and stability or in terms of creativity or expectations for the future. Not surprisingly, around 78% of young people do not remain in their first job and about 58% of them choose to leave the job themselves.

Job search strategies

As mentioned, young people take just over seven months, on average, to find their first job. However, on completing their studies, women do not find a job as quickly as men do (on average, it takes 9.3 months for women, compared with six months for men).

Furthermore, young unemployed people who already have some work experience spend, on average, 5.7 months finding a new job; from a gender perspective, men spend half the time that women do in this regard (3.5 months and 7.5 months, respectively).

Figure 2: Average time to find a job


Source: Injuve, 2006

When searching for a job, over half of the unemployed young people (51%) would be prepared to move to a different town, if required. They also would be willing to change profession (in 78% of cases), or even to work at a lower occupational level (67% of cases). Some 56% of them would accept an underpaid job if it was relevant to their educational background.

The most common way for young people to find a job is through family, friends and social networks.

Young people’s attitudes towards work

Unemployment is a significant or very significant problem in the opinion of 90% of young Spanish people: this perception is more pronounced among women (92%) than men (87%).

According to the young people, the main reasons for youth unemployment are lack of work experience (63% of cases) and an inadequate educational background (14%).

Some 77% of young people cite job stability and security as being the most important factor to consider when accepting a job. Only 17% of them stated that a high salary was important.

Antonio Corral and José Ruiz de Munain, IKEI

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