Print Page Share & Print

Analytical Highlights

Spain: Mismatch priority occupations



ICT specialists belong to high shortage occupations for Spain.

Looking at past, current and future trends (3-4 years), a number of occupations have been identified as mismatch priority occupations for Spain, i.e. they are either in shortage of surplus. Shortage occupation: an occupation that is in short supply of workers, and for which the employers typically face difficulties finding a suitable candidate. Surplus occupation: an occupation for which there are plenty of suitable workers available but low demand. The employers have no problems filling such posts.

The list below is based on an assessment of the labour market of Spain. The occupations presented are not given any rank. All of them present high mismatch.

Shortage Occupations

ICT specialists [1]

The fact that ICT solutions are increasingly “embedded” in nearly all economic sectors, together with the increasing digitalisation of the economy, explains the increasing demand for ICT professionals, not only in service sector-related activities but also in manufacturing-related ones. There is evidence that the sectoral demand for these professionals exceed their supply [2]. The current number of university and VET students [3] in ICT related fields is around 70 thousand [4], which is insufficient. Shortages can be related to the lack of candidates with appropriate skills. For ICT specialists, enterprises require employees who possess the relevant technical skills plus those that are able to demonstrate initiative taking and teamwork abilities, alongside commercial skills to successfully interact with customers and clients. A good knowledge of English is also required. These additional skill requirements make the search for appropriate professionals more difficult. Job vacancies for ICT specialists are one of the most difficult to fill in Spain [5]. In the future (until 2020) there is expected to be a strong demand for programmers and developers (25-50 thousand jobs), community managers/marketing ICT-based specialists (60-70 thousand jobs), and specialists in digital visual design and creativity (15-45 thousand jobs) [6]. Several emerging occupations have been also identified (Cloud systems administrators; CTO experts on WEB technologies; Virtual reality specialists; Experts in UX design; HPC experts or YOD ecosystems managers, amongst others).

The Spanish ICT sector association AMETIC is engaged in several programmes intended to increase the existing supply of ICT specialists or to re-skill existing professionals. The “Profesionales TIC” programme, funded by the Public Employment Service (PES) aims to train unemployed persons in ICT-related fields. More than 12 thousand people have been trained since the initiation of the project in 2014 and over 60% of them were subsequently hired by enterprises. The “PICE _Joven eTIC” programme intends to train youths aged between 16 and 30 years old in ICT-related domains where enterprises face difficulties in filling vacancies. Enterprises receive 1.5 thousand EUR per each full-time young person hired for a minimum period of six months. Within the context of the existing Spanish Tripartite Agreement on Continuous Training, AMETIC provides free-of-charge courses developing the ICT skills of employees in selected economic sectors [7]. The Spanish Tripartite Foundation for Training finances training activities for Spanish enterprises and their employees in many different domains. In 2014 more than 280 thousand people participated in continuous training funded by the tripartite Foundation in ICT specific domains[8]. The Spanish ICT sector is facing several challenges in terms of human resources e.g. maintenance of ongoing training (necessary for an industry that is in constant evolution)[9]. If these challenges are not successfully dealt with the Spanish ICT sector could be negatively affected in terms of lost business opportunities and limited growth prospects for the sector

The demand for production and industry engineers in Spain is increasing [11] (with most of the jobs offers - 71% - arising from manufacturing companies). In 2014 graduates in relevant tertiary programmes (e.g. Electronic Engineers, Automatic Engineers, Industrial Engineers, Aeronautic Engineers and Naval Engineers) had the highest employment rates (above 94%) [12]. The educational level required by enterprises for engineering-related jobs is in almost all cases a university degree [13]. The yearly supply of university graduates in pertinent industrial-related specialities is around 13-14 thousand [14], complemented by a supply of approximately additional 13 thousand students enrolled in high level VET studies related to manufacturing specialities [15]. Supply seems to be insufficient, since production engineers are among the job vacancies most difficult to fill [16]. The proportion of female engineering students is very low (accounting for around 30%), though there are differences by engineering disciplines. There is an increasing debate in Spain about the importance of “reindustrialising” the country in order to reach the European objective of 20% of the national GDP generated by industry-related activities (and in doing so, increasing the importance of industry as a key sector for the Spanish economy [17].) This, together with the current trends towards the so-called “Manufacturing 4.0” concept [18] (which draws together cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, and the Internet of Services) is likely to increase the demand for engineers, particularly those specialised in the analysis and management of Big Data, as well as high level vocational training graduates [19]. More than 642 thousand engineering professionals and support technicians are expected to be needed in Spain by 2025 [20]. The skills typically required by employers includes strong technical capabilities, ability to speak fluently in English, advanced ICT-related skills [21], good planning and management skills, and negotiation and communication skills. These additional skill requirements make the recruitment of appropriate professionals more difficult for enterprises

In the recent years several universities and engineering-related professional associations have developed initiatives to increase the interest of students in engineering studies. For example, the Polytechnic Universities of Madrid and Valencia are collaborating with the Royal Engineering Academy to increase the interest of 10-12 years-olds in technical and engineering studies [22]. The University of Valencia (also the universities of University of Zaragoza, Oviedo and Rovira i Virgili) [23] annually celebrate a so-called “Girls' Day” intended to attract more women students in to science and engineering studies [24]. It is also worth mentioning the experience of Fundación Telefónica’s Education Challenge, intended to award prizes to 100 education-related innovation projects intended to effectively promote Scientific and Technological Careers amongst young people, both in Spain as well as other EU and Latin American countries [25]. Spain has developed since 2012 a new type of VET provision called “Dual Vocational Training”, regulated by the Royal Decree 1529/2012 of 8th November and the Order ESS/2518/2013 of 26th December. This “Dual Vocational Training”, intended to complement the existing supply of VET studies, is being developed in pilot exercises in several manufacturing related specialities such as Mechanical Manufacture, Electricity and Electronics, and Installation and Maintenance Services. [26] Some regional governments are particularly active in increasing both the number, and the quality, of VET technicians in manufacturing-related specialities. A good example of this is the Basque Government which has in December 2015 passed the Basque Law for Vocational Training[27]. The law intends to better adapt training supply to the current needs of regional enterprises, particularly manufacturing ones and follows the main criteria established by the existing national legislation. The Law identifies a number of priority areas, including the full development of dual-training models, the participation of enterprises in the design and content of training inputs, and the inclusion of entrepreneurship and the internationalisation of the curricula (fostering collaboration with other EU training centres and the development of foreign languages within the curriculum).

Managers and directors are among the occupations forecasted to have a strong employment increase e.g. more than 704 thousand jobs are expected to be created by 2025 [29]. In addition, managers and directors have one of the lowest unemployment rates (less than 3% in the third quarter of 2015) [30]. The existing supply of university graduates is around 46 thousand per year [31] whereas the existing number of VET students in management-related specialities [32] is around 97 thousand [33]. A significant part of the skills supply comes also from (mainly private) business schools, often specialised in MBA postgraduate studies [34]. Supply is not sufficient to meet the existing demand for professionals - according to some recent reports managerial positions are among the most difficult-to-fill job vacancies [35]. A main reason for skills shortages is the lack of candidates with appropriate skills and knowledge. Managerial-related skills typically required by enterprises include leadership, communication, planning and negotiation abilities, foreign language knowledge, and use of ICTs, as well as extensive work experience (usually in similar managerial activities). Post-graduate training is particularly welcomed, usually in business oriented-areas (MBA, Finance, Sales, Human Resources, Quality, Project management, etc.).

It is a well-known fact that managers face difficulties participating in continuous training activities, due to work and task pressures. The Spanish Tripartite Foundation for Training finances training activities for Spanish managers in different domains. In 2014, more than 6 thousand people participated in courses related to the management of SMEs in general, whereas over 10 thousand people participated in courses related to the management of large enterprises[36].

Sales agents/salespersons, both for national and/or international markets, are one of the occupations where enterprises currently identify significant difficulties in finding highly qualified professionals [38]. The demand for sales professionals is expected to increase in the future [39], though no exact forecasts are available. This relates to the existing priority amongst enterprises to expand their markets (both at national and international levels). [40] Spanish enterprises usually look for sales professionals with previous relevant experience in the same area and have a strong preference for university graduates (usually business-related studies and engineering-related graduates) [41]. The existing supply of university graduates in business related specialities is around 46 thousand per year [42] , whereas the existing number of VET students [43] in commerce and marketing related specialities is around 11 thousand. [44] Supply is insufficient to meet demand. In addition to this, enterprises require highly specific skills for these professionals [45] such as: selling abilities, good planning and management skills, being customer-oriented, negotiation and good communication skills and, in the case of salespersons for international markets, fluency in foreign languages. This explains why enterprises experience difficulties recruiting highly qualified sales professionals.

The main existing public initiative intended to foster sales-related occupations refers to the activities conducted by the Spanish Tripartite Foundation for Training, which finances different training initiatives for Spanish enterprises and their employees. In 2014, more than 148 thousand people participated in continuous training activities funded by the tripartite Foundation in sales-related domains (in 2013 participated more than 122 thousand people) [46].

Shipping professionals [47]

According to data from the first quarter of 2016, vacancies in several shipping-related occupations have been identified as particularly difficult to fill (e.g. ship refrigeration specialists, ship engine operators and mechanics, ship radio officials, pilots and officials of merchant ships, ship waiters/stewards/cooks, ship firemen, sailors, etc.) [48]. Long working hours, a tough working environment, and (often) low salary levels, are some of the main reasons behind the shortages for these professionals [49]. Another reason relates to insufficient skills supply e.g. more than 1.3 thousand students are currently enrolled in maritime/fishing-related VET study programmes [50] (8% are women), whereas around 8 hundred students are enrolled in maritime-related university study programmes [51]. These figures do not satisfy the existing needs of ship professionals in Spain.

The “Catalogue of difficult-to-fill occupations” [52] produced by the Public Service of State Employment identifies, on a quarterly basis, those occupations for which significant difficulties are faced in finding suitable candidates in Spain professionals. The inclusion of the “Ship controllers and technicians” occupations in the “Catalogue” makes it easier to hire foreign professionals [53]. In order to overcome recruitment difficulties, enterprises hire professionals from third countries, where working conditions and labour standards are often not particularly high. This can result in a downward pressure on the working conditions and salaries available to workers from Spain in the shipping sector.

One of the main reasons for skills shortages relates to the existence of the traditional “numerus clausus” policy fostered by medical professional associations. This policy intends to regulate and “limit” the number of graduates in medicine (supply of medical doctors) stemming from the Spanish universities [55]. The limited supply of university graduates has resulted in low unemployment rates that characterise this group of professionals (less than 5% for the third quarter of 2015 [56]), especially in relation to some specialities such as “occupational medicine” [57], “paediatrics” or “plastic surgery” [58]. Of note is that the recent economic crisis and the associated public cuts in health expenditure have resulted in a deterioration of working conditions of new graduates, and difficulties accessing good quality jobs.

One measure (fostered by some regional governments) relates to the fact that in the last eight years the number of new Medicine Faculties has increased (from 28 to 41), where the number of first-year students has nearly doubled to more than seven thousand. This trend has been strongly criticised by the medical professional associations [59] as the increase may not correspond with real future skill needs but rather to the interests of regional governments (to have more medicine-related studies within their geographical boundaries). This may eventually result in an over-supply of medical doctors over the coming years.

Surplus Occupations

Surplus occupations in Spain include [60]: several primary-sector related occupations [61], plant and machine operators [62], several building-related occupations [63], several manufacturing-related occupations [64] and, finally, some tertiary occupations [65]. The reasons underlying surpluses are various. For example, building and construction-related occupations have been particularly affected by the economic crisis, whereas industrial manufacturing-related occupations are affected by the relocation of (partial) production abroad or by the technical progress (and the resulting changes in work processes). Data from the Spanish Labour Force Survey suggests that the group of less skilled, elementary workers have the highest unemployment rates [66].

There are several measures aiming at the reintegration of unemployed people into the labour market [67]. These include unemployment benefits [68] and the individualised services (e.g. intermediation, training for employment, and advice for self-employment) provided by the Public Employment Service (PES) [69]. In February 2015 a Royal Decree, the Common Employment Services Portfolio, was approved [70]. This Law enabled regional PES to include additional individualised services in different fields such as vocational orientation and advice, placement and advice to companies, training and qualifications for employment, and counselling for self-employment and entrepreneurship. Another measure relates to the funding of training courses by the Spanish Tripartite Foundation for Training. Most of the courses lead to the acquisition of professional certificates. In 2013, the Tripartite Foundation dedicated approximately 956.9 million EUR to the training of unemployed people [71]. The Royal-Decree Law 4/2013, of February 22, on measures to support entrepreneurs and to stimulate growth and job creation [72] stipulated the implementation of 100 measures targeted at facilitating the placement of unemployed people into the labour market whether as employees or as entrepreneurs. The role of the PES in implementing the law includes many aspects such as measures to enhance self-employment, improved intermediation services, and fostering of training activities. This Royal-Decree complements the legislation passed in February 2015 (as previously explained).

Note on the methodology

The list has been compiled by Cedefop in the first half of 2016 combining quantitative and qualitative methods. In particular, a list of mismatch occupations was formulated following quantitative analysis of labour market indicators. Country experts were then asked to build on and scrutinise this list. Their expert assessment and knowledge of the country’s labour market has provided rich insights about the reasons behind the skills shortages or surpluses at occupational level. These are also accompanied by measures and policies that aim to tackle such mismatches. Country’s stakeholders have also been included in validating the final list of occupations.

Find here more data and information about Spain.


[1] Software and applications developers and analysts (ISCO 251), Information and communications technology operations and user support technicians (ISCO 351), Telecommunications and broadcasting technicians (ISCO 352) and Electronics and telecommunications installers and repairers (ISCO 742)

[9] SEPE, Estudio prospectivo del sector de servicios avanzados a las empresas en las tecnologías de la información y comunicación (TIC) en España, Madrid, 2015.

[10] Engineering professionals (ISCO 214).

[13] Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social, Observatorio de las Ocupaciones- Los Perfiles de la Oferta de Empleo 2012-2013-2014-2015, Madrid, several years. Read more:

[16] Manpower Group, Estudio Manpower sobre Escasez de Talento 2015.

[21] Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social, Observatorio de las Ocupaciones- Los Perfiles de la Oferta de Empleo 2012-2013-2014-2015, Madrid, several years.

[28] Production managers in agriculture, forestry and fisheries (ISCO 131), Manufacturing, mining, construction, and distribution managers (ISCO 132), Information and communications technology service managers (ISCO 133), Retail and wholesale trade managers (ISCO 142) and Other services managers (ISCO 143).

[37] Sales and purchasing agents and brokers (ISCO 332)

[41] Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social, Observatorio de las Ocupaciones- Los Perfiles de la Oferta de Empleo 2012-2013-2014-2015, Madrid, several years

[45] Ministerio de Empleo y Seguridad Social, Observatorio de las Ocupaciones- Los Perfiles de la Oferta de Empleo 2012-2013-2014-2015, Madrid, several years.

[47] Ship and aircraft controllers and technicians (ISCO 315).

[52] Public Service of State Employment (2015). Catalogue of difficult-to-fill occupations.

[54] Medical doctors (ISCO 221); Other health professionals (ISCO 226), Medical and pharmaceutical technicians (ISCO 321), Traditional and complementary medicine associate professionals (ISCO 323) and Other health associate professionals (ISCO 325).

[59] Foro de la Profesión Médica de España, ¿Por qué Numerus Clausus en Medicina? Razones para frenar la apertura de nuevas Facultades de Medicina, 2014

[61] Forestry and related workers (ISCO 621) and Fishery workers, hunters and trappers (ISCO 622)

[62] Mining and mineral processing plant operators (ISCO 811); Metal processing and finishing plant operators (ISCO 812); Rubber, plastic and paper products machine operators (ISCO 814); Textile, fur and leather products machine operators (ISCO 815); Other stationary plant and machine operators (ISCO 818); Mobile plant operators (ISCO 834)

[63] Building frame and related trades workers (ISCO 711); Building finishers and related trades workers (ISCO 712); Painters, building structure cleaners and related trades workers (ISCO 713); Mining and construction labourers (ISCO 931)

[64] Printing trades workers (ISCO 732); Food processing and related trades workers (ISCO 751); Wood treaters, cabinet-makers and related trades workers (ISCO 752); Garment and related trades workers (ISCO 753); Manufacturing labourers (ISCO 932), Assemblers (ISCO 821)

[65] Street and market salespersons (ISCO 521); Vehicle, window, laundry and other hand cleaning workers (ISCO 912); Food preparation assistants (ISCO 941); Refuse workers (ISCO 961); Street vendors (ISCO 952); Other elementary workers (ISCO 962)

[67] European Commission, ESPN Thematic Report: Integrated support for the long-term unemployed, Brussels, 2015.

[69] Employment Act, following the reform of Act 18/2014 of 5 October.

[70] Royal Decree 7/2015, of 16 January, approving the Common Services Portfolio of the National Employment System. Read more:

European Skills IndexPeople and SkillsMatching Skills and JobsFuture JobsLabour Market ContextSpainMismatch priority occupations in countries