News / Europe

Spain's Economic Woes Send Some Immigrants Home

Unemployed factory worker Alejandro Jimenez, 35, left, smokes as he waits outside a government employment office for his turn to be attended in Madrid, 04 Jan, 2011
Unemployed factory worker Alejandro Jimenez, 35, left, smokes as he waits outside a government employment office for his turn to be attended in Madrid, 04 Jan, 2011
Lauren Frayer

The number of non-EU immigrants to Spain fell in 2010, for the first time since the country's construction boom began luring record numbers of immigrants. The tide has turned as jobs dried up and many immigrants decided to go home.

Madrid's El Rastro market is where street vendors have been hawking wares for more than 500 years. Paul Shoyoye first came here 35 years ago, an immigrant from Nigeria. Back then he was a customer in a new country with a bright future. Now, he sells cheap clothing on a street corner, unable to find higher-paying work.

"This is the worst moment," said Shoyoye. "Before, there were jobs for everybody. People work, they enjoy that, and they're safe - as somebody who has worked. But now the economy is bad. I have to tell you, it's bad."

Immigrants like Shoyoye came to Spain for a better life, college degrees, health care.

"I worked in the central bank of Nigeria before, and then I worked at one of the biggest insurance (companies) in Africa," said Shoyoye. "I came here because I needed to study again, and then I studied at university here in Madrid. After that, there were no jobs. The way they pay, the salaries, are just too small. That's why I have to change my mind."

He estimates his profits are a third of what they were three years ago. And after 35 years in Spain, he's considering going back to Nigeria. He explains why some of his friends from Morocco and Ecuador are doing the same.

"Some of them are going back home, because they say they don't have jobs," said Shoyoye. "After the construction rise, they don't have many jobs and they're going back home. They return home because they have jobs there, or at least they're nearer to their families."

The trend Shoyoye describes is backed up by government figures. The Labor Department says fewer non-Europeans moved to Spain in 2010 than any year in the past decade. The biggest drop has been here in Madrid, with nearly 14 percent fewer immigrants last year alone.   

Economist Josep Oliver, who co-authored Spain's Yearbook of Immigration, said part of the issue is how fast immigrants rushed to Spain in the boom years, when work was abundant. "From half a million in the mid-90s to close to 5 million in 2008. It's really the most important inflow of immigrants in any European country in the last decades," said Oliver.

Oliver said during that time, 40 percent of new jobs in Europe were in Spain - a country that represents only 10 percent of the continent's total economy.

On one hand, falling immigration numbers now will alleviate some of Spain's unemployment, which remains above 20 percent. But on the other hand, Spain has such a low birth rate that it needs foreign workers to keep its economy alive. That problem has led to some controversial austerity measures.

"The increasing number of years before retirement, it's really a hot potato," said Oliver. "The proposal of our government is to increase it from 65 to 67. That is because of our demography. At some moment in the next decade, our baby boomers will start to retire and then we will have problems to maintain our pension system, and generally speaking, our welfare system."

Oliver acknowledges that the opportunities for immigrants have dried up in Spain. But he thinks another immigration wave is inevitable.

"I can't imagine Spain in the next 30 years, seeing our population shrinking in absolute terms, as is predicted if we don't have another immigration wave, or if we don't have an increasing fertility rate, and that seems not possible," said Oliver. "It's difficult to imagine not only a pension system, but also a labor market, working properly without a correct amount of young workers."

Shoyoye said that if he decides to go home to Nigeria, he probably won't come back. After half of lifetime in Spain, he said it's a tough call.



You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid