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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora