Spanish Social Security and Pensions

Working in Europe | Pension rights | Spain


The Spanish Constitution guarantees that all citizens receive healthcare and social benefits in case of need. Social Security is the channel through which this care is guaranteed for all citizens and their families.

Through workers’ contributions to Social Security, for undertaking a professional activity, the State guarantees workers and their family members or any individuals under their care the appropriate protection in the eventualities and situations enshrined in law, set out in the sections below. In order to receive these social benefits, Spanish nationals residing in Spain and foreign nationals who reside or are legally in Spain, whatever their sex, marital status or profession, are protected individuals under the Social Security System, as long as they operate within the national territory.

General Regime and Contributing to Social Security 

Sede del Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria, INIA. Organismo Público de Investigación

Sede del Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria, INIA. Organismo Público de Investigación

In order to apply for the social benefits detailed in this section of the Guide, you must be included in the General Social Security Regime. This constitutes the nucleus of the System and, put simply, incorporates paid employees in any branch of economic activity (or workers assimilated to them) over 16 years of age, whatever their sex, marital status or profession, whether they are temporary, seasonal, fixed-term or sporadic workers, including home workers, whatever their category and the form and quantity of remuneration they receive, and whether their work is common or special.

In social security in Spain, the word cotización (contribution) refers to amounts of social security that workers and employers must pay to the State. General Social Security Law dictates that workers and the business owners for whom they work, in virtue of the principle of their responsibility for eventualities that may befall the individuals that render services for them, are obliged to make contributions to the General Regime.

Although both workers and employers are obliged to make contributions, it is the latter who must ensure that the obligation to make contributions is met and must deliver both their and their workers’ contributions in their entirety. In order to do so, the employer shall deduct the contributions each worker must make when remunerating their work. This amount cannot be taken subsequently from the worker, so a failure to make the correct deduction will oblige the employer to assume the entire amount himself.

There are two elements that determine the value of the contribution: the contribution base and the type or percentage to be applied to this.

A constant feature and consequence of this is that the higher the salary, the higher the contribution and the better the pension. In summary, the harder one works in the present, the higher the future gains.

Further information on contribution bases and types of contribution in 2013 of the General Social Security Regime can be consulted on the following website:

The various benefits 

The INSS (National Social Security Institute) is the body responsible for recognising and controlling the right to financial benefits granted by the Social Security System, and through it the right to medical care and pharmaceutical benefits is recognised. It manages pensions for retirement, permanent disability, widowhood, orphans, for family members and financial benefits derived from work accidents and professional illnesses, as well as subsidies for temporary disability, maternity, paternity, risk during pregnancy and risk during breastfeeding, and caring for minors suffering from cancer or other serious diseases. It includes financial benefits for children or minors in foster care and payments for the birth or adoption of a child in the case of large families, single-parent families and in the case of mothers with disabilities (as well as for multiple births or adoptions).

The financial benefits granted by Social Security fall into four categories according to the method of payment and duration of benefits:

  • Pensions are financial benefits that are regularly paid, either for life or until a certain age is reached.
  • Subsidies are regularly paid or temporary benefits.
  • Indemnities are one-off financial benefits.
  • Other benefits, such as unemployment benefit.

In addition to financial benefits we draw your attention to healthcarepharmaceutical benefits and social services, which are, in reality, benefits in kind which undeniably have financial implications.

Conditions for accessing non-contributory retirement pensions
Source: Social Security Classroom. Current model and previous. Secretariat of State for Social Security, Madrid, 2012.