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Spain - Canarias

Short overview of the labour market


The Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands is an archipelago located to the west of Africa’s Western Sahara and is one of the European Union’s so-called outermost regions. Its coordinates are north latitude 27º 37’ and 29º 25’ and west longitude 13º 20’ and 18º10’. It is just over 1 200 km from the Iberian Peninsula and just over 2 000 km from the Spanish capital. The Community of the Canary Islands, of volcanic origin, forms part of the natural region of Macaronesia along with the Cape Verde, Azores, Madeira and Selvagens archipelagos.

It has an area of 7 446 95 km2, 2 106 624 inhabitants as of 1 January 2017 and a population density of 282.88 inhabitants per square kilometre. This Autonomous Community ranks eighth in Spain in terms of population.

It has two provinces: Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas. Santa Cruz comprises the following four islands from most to least populated: Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Las Palmas province comprises three islands: Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. La Graciosa, the eighth island in terms of population, forms part of the municipality of Teguise in Lanzarote.

The population in the Canary Islands rose by 0.30 % compared to 2016. Over the last five years there has been a 0.55 % decline.

The foreign population residing in this Autonomous Community (295 623) accounts for 14.03 % of the total. The most numerous in rank order are Italians, Germans, British, Moroccans, Chinese and Cubans.

The business structure of the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands is based on small and medium-sized enterprises. According to the Central Directory of Companies published by the National Statistical Institute, on 1 January 2017, 91.49 % of the companies employed five or fewer workers and 0.76 % employed more than 50. There are only 10 registered companies with more than 1 000 workers and only one of these employs more than 5 000.

According to data from the Spanish National Statistical Institute’s Q3 2017 Labour Force Survey, the over 16 population totalled 1 824 200, the economically active population was 1 094 500, employed persons totalled 855 200 and there were 239 300 unemployed. The unemployment rate was 21.87 %, just over five percentage points above the national rate and the third highest out of Spain’s Autonomous Communities. The unemployment rate in the province of Santa Cruz was 20.04 % and in Las Palmas it was 23.51 %. The unemployment rate for women (25.80 %) was seven percentage points higher than for men (18.38 %). The activity rate reached 60.00 %, more than one percentage point higher than the national average (58.92 %).

The services sector is the most important to the islands’ economy. 85.61 % of companies are registered and 89.48 % of the workers are engaged in this sector. At national level, over 79 % of the contribution accounts and 80.26 % of workers are in this sector.

Between January and September 2017, a total of 10 528 889 tourists visited the islands, an increase of 1 198 114 over the same period the previous year. The two main countries of origin are still the United Kingdom and Germany. As for destinations of choice, Tenerife ranks first with a total of 4 124 007 visitors during the reference period, followed by Gran Canaria with a total of 2 961 744. The number of visitors increased in both cases compared to the same period in 2016 (8.63 % and 9.75 % respectively.

According to information from the Public State Employment Service's Occupational Monitoring Centre, in September 2017 there were 221 006 unemployed persons in the Autonomous Community of the Canary Islands (4.29 % fewer than in September of the previous year), accounting for 6.48 % of the total number of unemployed persons in Spain. Of these, 96 342 were men and 124 664 women. 73.29 % were registered in the services sector, 10.35 % in construction, 10.44 % had never worked before, 3.93 % in industry and 1.99 % in agriculture. Unemployment figures fell in the vast majority of economic sectors compared with September 2016 except for the group which had never worked before which grew by 28.51 %.

Text last edited on: 03/2018

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