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Spain - Cantabria

Short overview of the labour market


The Autonomous Community of Cantabria, located in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula's northern coast, covers 5 321 km2 and has 284 km of coastline along the Cantabrian Sea. According to municipal register data for 2018, 580 067 people reside in Cantabria, a small drop that is in line with the general trend for the Kingdom of Spain as a whole. The average age of the population is approximately 45 (35 for foreigners) and life expectancy is around 83 years old. 51.5 % of the population are women and 48.5 % are men. The population density is 109 h/km2. Regarding the origin of the population, three quarters are from the region itself and of the remaining 25 %, two out of three are from other parts of Spain and the rest were born abroad, mostly in Europe and Latin America. Although in recent years the segment of the population born in other countries decreased, mainly as a consequence of the economic crisis, it has been recovering lately.

The bulk of the population, and hence economic activity, is found on the coast along what is known as the ‘Arc of the Bay and Besaya extension’ which encompasses the major cities of Santander and Torrelavega, the former known for its services sector and the latter for its industrial activity. The coast features a mild, temperate Atlantic climate with moderate temperature fluctuations and average annual temperatures of approximately 16 ºC, precipitation in the vicinity of 1 100 mm and over 1 600 hours of sun. The inland area has more of a moderate continental climate. Additional data supplementing the census show that 70 % of commutes from home to work – by any means including walking – take under 20 minutes.

Major national economic indicators continue to show positive performance. However, forecasts for the future are not as positive as in the last few years. All estimates predict a positive macroeconomic scenario but with a slowdown. By the close of year, gross domestic product (GDP) will be growing by less than 3 %. The Autonomous Community of Cantabria, which accounts for approximately 1.2 % of national GDP, is following this same positive trend and the forecasts for this year are actually brighter than the Spanish average. The different sectors of the economy are performing well, services and industry leading the growth and construction once again accounting for a significant share. Per capita income in Cantabria is only slightly below the national average.

The Central Directory of Companies (DIRCE) shows a total of 38 522 companies in Cantabria, with 43 751 active premises or workplaces. Cantabria’s business structure is highly fragmented. In fact, slightly more than half of the companies have no employees and of those that do, 83 % have fewer than six; companies with over 50 workers account for only 1.4 % of the total number of companies. The most common legal form of companies is that of natural person and private limited company. From a quantitative standpoint, the main activities are retail and wholesale trade, food and beverage services; building construction and related occupations; land transport; real estate activities; personal services; legal and accounting activities; health care activities; education activities; and architectural and engineering activities, accounting for nearly three quarters of the active premises. The number of people on public social security rolls is on the rise; the total in September 2018 was 218 974, one out of five of whom are self-employed workers.

The labour market continued to perform relatively well based both on data from the labour force survey (LFS) and different public registers, especially those of the Ministry of Employment, Migration and Social Security. The number of workers on social security rolls and the number of job contracts is increasing and unemployment is down. Moreover, according to Q3 2018 LFS data, in Cantabria the activity rate was 55.10 % and the unemployment rate was 8.99 %.

According to information from the Public State Employment Service's Occupational Monitoring Centre of Cantabria, in September 2018 there were 34 432 unemployed persons (including the rise at the end of the summer tourist season). This is a year-on-year decline of nearly five percentage points. While the annual cumulative volume of labour recruitment through September continued to grow, it did so at a slower pace than in previous years showing signs of stagnation. This was one of the best-performing indicators although the figures were tainted by an excess of temporary contracts. Overall, and despite the caveats mentioned, the data continues to be positive and is evidence of a substantially healthier labour market, a conclusion, as already seen, supported by both government figures and surveys.


Text last edited on: 04/2019

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