The myth of the lack of staff: jobs to be filled represent 1% of employed workers

“Absolutely not.” This is how Jesús Cruz Villalón, professor of labor law and social security at the University of Seville, responds when asked if vacant jobs, jobs that have not yet been filled, constitute a major problem in Spain. Álvaro Gaertner, technician of the economic office CC OO and one of those responsible for the publication “Analysis of job offers in Spain”, fully agrees with Cruz. The data backs them up. The percentage of vacancies, jobs which are calculated in relation to the number of employees, stood at 0.9% at the start of 2022, well below the European average of 2.9%, according to Eurostat data. In addition, 94.4% of companies declare that they have no vacancies, according to the quarterly survey on the cost of labor by the INE.

So how do you explain that every summer of tourism they deplore the lack of manpower? Or, how is it that from different sectors one criticizes the lack of qualified personnel?

The truth is that although the percentage in relation to vacancies is very low and “especially affects certain sectors, it has increased a lot in the last two years”, points out Cruz. Thus, while in the first quarter of 2021 there were a total of 100,041 vacancies, this figure was 133,988 in the same period of 2022, which represents an increase of more than 30% in a single year.


The public sector is the one with the most vacancies, due to its slow hiring process. However, sectors that are closely linked to tourism, especially in places where the temporary rental offer is very limited and expensive such as on the islands, are also strongly affected by this problem, which in this case has much more visibility. . The third and fourth sectors most affected by job vacancies are health activities and more technical professions, which require a more qualified workforce, which is often not recycled at the rate required by the labor market. work.

“The pandemic has accelerated this process because with the ERTE, employment was blocked and, when the market reactivated, the number of job offers increased and, consequently, that of vacancies”, explains the teacher.

Overall, this phenomenon may come as a surprise considering that Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the EU. A figure that was 13.65% at the start of 2022, according to the Active Population Survey. How come there are vacancies with such a high percentage of unemployment?

The explanations of the experts consulted coincide: the problem of vacancies is not general, but is sectorized and the labor market is not agile, there is a mismatch between the needs of employers and candidates. “There’s no perfect solution when you make an offer and the right candidate responds immediately, a phenomenon we call labor market friction,” Gaertner said. In addition, say these experts, there is a problem of adequate and continuous training, in particular professional retraining of those who lose a job that is no longer in demand on the market.

“Public administration is the sector most affected by this phenomenon, since hiring procedures are slow and rigid,” explains Cruz. With 38,685 vacancies, it represents almost 29% of the total number of unfilled jobs, according to data for the first quarter of 2022 from INE.

Commerce, according to the same figures, is in second place. In this case, he says, “the biggest problem is linked to seasonal jobs where wages are low and the cost of housing very high”. A good example of this are vendors located in tourist locations like the Balearic Islands. “That’s what happens in the case of hospitality,” says Gaertner, CC OO. The working conditions, he adds, “are very bad and the housing market prices for the season are unaffordable”.

Although the hotel industry is not among the sectors of activity most affected by these job offers, the INE data only describes the situation that prevailed at the beginning of the year when 6,949 workers were needed, and not with regard to the holiday period, where most of the job offers. In this sense, Emilio Gallego, Secretary General of the Hospitality Employers of Spain, assures that, of the 100,000 additional workers that the sector needs every summer, only half can be covered. Even so, Gallego claims that the hospitality industry is not one of the sectors that suffers the greatest staff shortage, but it is one of those with the greatest visibility and that suffers the most during the summer period.

lack of recycling

Health activities and those of the scientific and technical professions occupy third and fourth position respectively. In the latter case, believes Cruz, what happens is that “we have a dysfunction of professional retraining and the unemployed cannot respond to more technical positions”. These are, he says as an example, jobs related to the digital field, among others.

Thus, “while in the case of low-skilled vacancies, poor working conditions and, in some sectors, associated factors (such as the price of rents) largely explain the difficulty in finding workers, when we talk about ‘highly qualified jobs, the problem is the lack of training, especially practical training,’ sums up the professor. “Companies preferred to hire from the outside rather than train the people they had inside, and since there are not as many such profiles, they no longer find workers,” says Gaertner . Despite this, he considers that the government has promoted good initiatives. Measures such as the approval, at the end of March, of the new law reformulating vocational training which establishes a flexible modular offer, intended to ensure progressive and continuous training.


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