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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs