Among Europeans, EU citizens represented 80% of foreign residents, easily the largest group; however, this number has been decreasing since the 1990s, despite EU expansion. In 2008, according to the padrón municipal, the percentage of EU citizens among foreign residents was just 40.1%, despite the fact that the Romanians, for whom Spain has become the second most attractive destination in Europe after Italy
At the beginning of 2008 Africans accounted for 17.2% of all foreigners in Spain. The majority of these were North Africans from Maghreb, in particular from Morocco.
The group of foreigners from the Americas is made up almost exclusively of Latin Americans, who account for 32.8% of all foreigners. They are thus an important factor in shaping current immigration trends. Whereas Argentineans, Venezuelans and Cubans originally dominated, other nationalities came to Spain as a result of particular circumstances: increasing economic hardship in Latin America in the 1990s, internal strife in some countries and the difficulties associated with immigrating to the US. Currently, Ecuadorians
Among the relatively small number of immigrants from Asian countries (totalling 4.9%), Chinese account for nearly half. Pakistanis, Filipinos and Indians dominate the remainder of the group and represent 38% of Asian foreigners.
The regional distribution of Spain's foreign population clearly shows that the agricultural regions along the Mediterranean coast as well as Barcelona and Valencia, the islands and the capital, Madrid, are key settlement areas. Nearly 80% of all foreigners reside in six of the 17 autonomous regions and two autonomous cities, namely (in order of total numbers) Catalonia, Madrid, Valencia, Andalusia, the Canary Islands and Murcia. A glance at the density of the foreign population extensively confirms this distribution. According to this, those regions in which the relative foreign population is above the 11.3% average for the country are the Balearics (20.8%), Valencia (16.7%), Madrid (15.9%), Murcia (15.7%), Catalonia (17.9%) and the Canary Islands (13.6%). The small autonomous community of La Rioja (13.7%) and Aragón (11.6%) also figure among this group.
The regional distribution of individual nationalities depicts a dual reality within the immigration picture. Spain offers respite for immigrants from northern regions of Europe who are in search of the sunnier south, whereas for those from Africa and Latin America, regions south of the Mediterranean, Spain is part of the wealthy North, offering employment opportunities. Accordingly, foreigners from EU countries (still) dominate in the warm Mediterranean regions and the Canary Islands. Latin Americans and Africans reside, above all, in the metropolitan areas of Madrid and Catalonia, including Barcelona, but can also be found in the agriculturally rich provinces.
According to Encuesta de población activa (EPA) data for the first quarter of 2008, three quarters of the foreign population who are of working age are available for the labour market. The proportion in gainful employment at that time was 65%, numbers having risen steadily over recent years. Those who were unemployed accounted for 14.7%, more than 5% above the average for Spain as a whole. The proportion of foreign workers who were not self-employed totalled 88%. As has been the case for years, areas in which most foreign workers are employed are firstly construction, followed by the hotel and catering industry, domestic work, retail, other services (companies offering services to other companies) and agriculture. In some cases foreigners form a considerable proportion of the workers in these areas in relation to the total workforce: in construction this proportion is almost 20%, and in the hotel and catering industry very nearly 25%. In line with the extensive 2005 campaign to legalise undocumented migrants, there has been an upward trend in the number of foreigners employed in construction, the hotel and catering industry, retail and other service industries in particular. By contrast, there has been a considerable reduction in domestic employment and a slight fall in the numbers employed in agriculture.