Healthcare and social security: we help you navigate the Spanish system from employment to pensions

Applying for a social security number

Whether you work for yourself or are employed you need to apply for a Social Security number in Spain. Ideally you should do this before you start work.
By contributing to the system you are paying for a range of different benefits including healthcare, unemployment benefit, maternity benefit and pensions to name a few.

To apply for a social security number, you’ll need to go in person to the closest social security office to where you live. For help in finding where that is click here.

You need to bring with you a completed social security application form (TA1) as well as either your passport or Residency Card/Certificate. You’ll be then issued with a number there and then.


For employees, a set percentage of earnings is payable and contributions to the social security system will begin as soon as employment begins. Both the employee and employer pay a percentage of the contribution, with the employer paying a larger percentage than the worker (the employer 24% and the employee 6.35%) . Payments are made towards social security coverage for:

  • Illness
  • Non work-related injuries
  • Retirement
  • Maternity and paternity leave
  • Work-related-injuries and occupational illness
  • Overtime
  • Unemployment
  • Wage Guarantee Fund
  • Occupational Training

If you are self-employed, the system is different and you operate under what is known as the régimen especial de autónomos. As there is no employer paying the large amount of contributions, you have to pay more, precisely – 261.83 euros a month.In February 2013 the government announced the monthly social security payment would be reduced for young people. Under 30s (under 35s for women) were to pay a flat rate of just 50 Euros in social security payments per month for the first six months – leading to savings of around 1,200 Euros – with a 30% reduction for the 24 months to follow. Even if you earn nothing during a month, you still need to pay this. The maximum contribution is around 2,575 euros. The more you pay, the larger the pension you receive when you retire; you can also pay an additional amount for temporary incapacity/sickness benefit.

If you work for yourself, be aware that if you have two different self-employed activities you need to contribute twice.

Healthcare – state versus private

If you pay social security, you automatically have a right to use the Spanish state healthcare system. Spain is generally regarded as having one of the best healthcare systems in the world where life expectancy is the highest in Europe (81.2 years).  The healthcare system has been largely untouched by the economic recession and recent research supports this. Spain spends a greater proportion of GDP on health than countries like Britain and has more practicing doctors.

Although it is not necessary to have private health insurance in Spain, although there are many such insurance companies in the country that are used mainly by locals who, for whatever reason, feel more comfortable with private health insurance (around 18%). If you have been brought over to Spain via a company you are probably provided with health insurance. Private insurer Sanitas (owned by BUPA) has around 17 per cent of the market and claims the greatest slice of the market for individual insurance purchasers.


The retirement age in Spain is 65. In order to be eligible for a Spanish pension, you will have had to make contributions to the system for at least 15 years, 2 of which must have been in the 15 years prior to retirement. The pension is calculated according to what you have paid to the social security system in the last 8 years (your earnings base). To receive 100% of your salary you will need to have contributed for 35 years. In some cases you can combine years worked in Spain and in your home country.

Unemployment Benefits

If you walk out of your job or are self-employed you are not entitled to unemployment benefit. You can only claim it if you have been fired or made redundant and that you had contributed to social security for a minimum of a year in the last six years.

Normally, unemployment benefit is 70% of your former monthly wage. To claim this you need to register at the Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal (SPEE). Unemployment benefits last for a maximum of two years.