Spain employed a record number of top civil servants

by Lorraine Williamson
civil servants

MADRID – The number of top civil servants in Spain has increased by more than 10% in the last year. However, in 2020 numerous jobs were lost in all other sectors. In addition, public debt has reached immense proportions due to the corona crisis. 

35 Directors-General did not end up in their positions through official procedure 

In a year when 620,000 jobs have gone up in smoke, youth unemployment has risen to 40% and public debt has risen to €1.311trillion, employment for senior civil servants appears to be going very well. In 2020, Spain employed a record number of 736 senior officials. This is according to a report by the Ministry of Territorial Policy and Government Functioning- In other words that is 10.51% more than at the end of 2019. 

The number of senior officials has increased enormously in recent years. As a result, the newspaper El Español denounces the way some of them have ended up in that position. For example, the law states that the position of director general must be filled by a civil servant.  But the current coalition government has not complied with this rule in 35 of these positions. This has broken the record of the previous government under Mariano Sánchez, when it happened ten times. 


According to President Jordi Solé of the Spanish Federation of Associations of Higher Bodies of Civil Administration (Fedeca), there has been a bad political culture in Spain for 40 years when it comes to the composition of the civil service. “There is a colonisation created, led by people from their own party or by self-chosen friends who are not in the service of the country, but only act in self-interest,” said Solé. 

Record number of ministries under coalition government 

When the former prime minister Mariano Rajoy stepped down and made way for the current Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, 656 high-ranking officials were employed. This was including ministers, cabinet leaders, directors-general, and so on. One of the first changes made by the newly appointed prime minister was an expansion of the senior civil service. Secondly, among other things was to have the corruption scandals of his predecessor further investigated. In December 2018, the number of senior officials rose above 700. This was the first time in Spanish history (there were 707).  

Cogesa Expats

After that, the new coalition government of the PSOE and Unidas Podemos that then took office broke a new record.  They created of no fewer than 22 ministries and 732 senior officials in June 2020 and 736 in December of that year. 

Normally, that wouldn’t even be a very high-profile development. However, 2020 was a dramatic year for the Spanish economy to say the least. According to Eurostat, the increase in unemployment in Spain was almost three times that in the rest of Europe. Additionally almost 40% of the increase in unemployment in the Eurozone was concentrated in Spain. 

Government is not open about salaries of high officials 

The costs of the senior officials will exceed €50million this year. Most of the money is spent by the Ministry of Justice (€16.8million), Transport (€7.33million) and the Presidency (€2.7million). The most economical are the Ministries of Equality (€518,460), Consumption (€450,320) and Universities (€391,020). However, according to El Español, these amounts are deceptive, because in reality much more money (double or even triple according to the said newspaper) is spent on civil servants’ salaries. The Sánchez government keep the actual payment of bonuses to senior officials off the official books. 

This month, the Spanish Supreme Court will rule on the 35 directors-general who have not been given their position by the government in the usual way. 

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