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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid