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Future Challenges | Spain |

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Future Challenges

Axel Kreienbrink

/ 4 Minuten zu lesen

It remains to be seen how the policy instruments used by the socialist government to manage immigration will work. On a positive note, it is possible to tie legal immigration to jobs. In order to become legalised on a case-by-case basis, migrants are required to have an employment contract.

However, many migrants, some even in possession of a residence permit, work informally in the underground economy, which, by definition, does not involve formal job contracts and which does allow for the creation of official job openings that could be filled using the quota system. In this respect, change will probably only come about in the foreseeable future if migration policy not only offers adequate opportunities to access the labour market (the effectiveness of opportunities to date has yet to be evaluated) but if, at the same time, there is a consistent approach to controlling the shadow economy.

One interesting aspect will be how Spain deals with foreign unemployment, which, given the current economic downswing, is visibly on the increase: in the first quarter of 2008 alone numbers went up by 18% compared with the end of 2007. Here, further economic development which, due in part to the crisis in the construction sector, is currently no longer viewed so positively as just a year ago , will have considerable impact on the capacity of the Spanish labour market to absorb foreign workers. The fact that need for foreign workers would fall was already mooted by the Minister of Economy and Finance, Pedro Solbes, as early as March 2008. Meanwhile, the extension of an already-existing return assistance programme is being considered. According to this, starting in September 2008, unemployed foreign workers will be able to claim their aggregated unemployment allowance, paid as a lump sum, one part in Spain, the rest after returning to their country of origin. This is tied to relinquishing their residence and work permits and the obligation not to return to Spain for three years. Additionally, small loans, or microcredits, plus advice are to be made available to enable them to establish a livelihood in their country of origin. This programme, however, only applies to the 19 third countries that have concluded social security agreements with Spain.

To further control and limit immigration, the new Minister of Labour and Immigration, Celestino Corbacho Chaves, plans to restrict family reunification by concentrating on the core family and excluding parents and parents-in-law. These restrictions are to be implemented along with an announced reform to the Aliens Act at the end of 2008. With regard to controlling illegal immigration, the Minister intends to further reinforce borders and step up the policy of repatriation. Measures taken during the last two years already appear to have had some effect, although it remains to be seen how effective they will be in the face of a possible new inrush.

Despite economic problems, it is anticipated that there will continue to be large-scale immigration to Spain for the immediate future and that these immigrants will contribute substantially to further population growth. At the same time, in the short and medium term this will also put the brakes on the severe demographic aging process to which Spain is exposed, given that it has one of Europe's lowest birth rates. In the long term, however, this will have less effect due to adjustments in reproductive behaviour. Yet the high level of immigration makes prognoses difficult: assumptions made in some previous projections have already been overtaken by the time of their publication.

Given this high level of immigration, the matter of integration is set to acquire great significance. For a long time, nationally-conceived migration policy has had hardly any connection with the intergration policy that has been conducted in the regions for some years. The Strategic Plan for Citizenship and Integration adopted in 2007 sets a new course in this respect, whereby firstly money is made available, and secondly the various levels of the state, regions, local authorities and NGOs converse with one another. Given the Socialists' renewed victory in the March 2008 elections, the transformation of the Ministry of Labour into a Ministry for Labour and Integration, the appointment of Celestino Corbacho Chaves as Minister of Labour and Immigration, someone familiar with the problems of immigration and integration, as well as the continuity of personnel at the top of the Secretariat of State for Immigration and Emigration, it can be expected that Spain will also continue along its pursued path of a policy of integration in the years to come.

Over and above the described national plan and the various plans on the level of autonomous communities, however, much will depend on what can be achieved on a local level. After all, it is there that issues such as the demand for jobs, reasonable living space and access to social services are actually dealt with, as well as the day-to-day matter of living with new neighbours. The process of building a family (in part by means of family reunification) is underway and a second generation is being born. This in turn places new demands on schools, already strongly apparent in primary schools and shortly also to reach the wide range of secondary schools. How to deal with immigrant children and children born in Spain is being apportioned great importance, since their education will determine the course of their later professional lives. Especially in cities and local communities, the matter of participation will have a role to play, and it was certainly not by chance that Immigration Minister Corbacho has been pushing the right for third country nationals to vote at a local level, something that, to date, according to the constitution, has been tied with strict reciprocity requirements.



  1. Z. B. Bergheim 2007.

  2. The model resembles to a certain extent the 1983 German Assistance Act for Returning Foreigners.

  3. León Salas 2005.

  4. The projection published by INE in 2003 anticipated a total population of 44.3 million at the outside by 2015 (Hernández Rodríguez 2003). The long-term projection for 2005 was already predicting 44.5 million for 2008 and 47.2 million for 2015, whereas the short-term 2008 projection of 45.2 million for 2008 published at the beginning of 2008 is already less than the likely figure and assumes a population of 50 million by 2015 (Externer Link: ).

  5. Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales 2007.

  6. Torres et al. 2007; Kreienbrink.

  7. Aparicio 2007.

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