The tourism industry is struggling to find workers willing to wait tables. | BORJA SUAREZ


Spain plans to relax work permit rules for foreigners, its social security and migration minister said today, seeking to address labour shortages in key industries such as tourism and construction that threaten its economic recovery.

The government intends to grant more temporary visas for sectors that need workers, Jose Luis Escriva told reporters.

Labour shortages have been reported in the tourism, agriculture, construction and technology industries.

"We are evaluating different aspects of the migration law and where there is room to improve it ... in order to address bottlenecks in Spain's labour market," he said.

Spain's tourism industry has seen a strong rebound but companies are struggling to find workers willing to wait tables and clean hotel rooms, according to reports from business organisations and consultancy S&P Global.

Staff shortages have also been reported in fruit orchards and on construction sites. Today's S&P monthly purchasing managers survey showed that although the service sector reported stronger demand in May, businesses were unable to grow as fast as expected because of problems finding workers.

"Hiring additional staff came at a cost in the form of higher wages being paid," S&P said. Labour shortages also threaten European Union-funded projects worth billions of euros that the government is counting on to get the economy back to its pre-COVID level.

Spain's economy was the hardest hit in the euro zone by the pandemic, shrinking 11% in 2020. Though unemployment is still high, at 13.65%, the pandemic encouraged more workers into the formal economy as official contracts were needed to collect furlough payments.

As a result, formal employment has reached a record high, causing shortages in some areas. Spain already has migration programmes with countries such as Morocco, Ecuador and Colombia and is open to extending temporary work visas to other Central America countries. A new pilot programme started with Honduras earlier this year, sources told Reuters