E.g., 09/24/2023
E.g., 09/24/2023
Spain: New Emigration Policies Needed for an Emerging Diaspora

The 2008 global economic crisis, which hit Spain uncommonly hard, has transformed the country's migration patterns. A decade of major immigration during the early 2000s—when the immigrant population quadrupled over the span of eight years—was replaced by a new reality: negative net migration. Those leaving have included both immigrants returning home or moving to a third country, and Spanish-born emigrants. It is the movement of the latter, particularly young, highly educated Spaniards, that has been the focus of much public debate.

Available data suggest many of those emigrating overseas today are highly skilled in valued fields such as science, medicine, and academia. Many nurses and other health professionals, engineers, architects, scientists, and academics have left, sparking shortages that are difficult to fill. Continuing budget cuts and still high unemployment rates mean that this exodus of talent is unlikely to slow anytime soon.

It is unclear what the longer-term consequences of today’s emigration will be. In the short term the departure of underemployed graduates may serve as a safety valve, relieving pressure on an underperforming labor market and allowing young people to acquire valuable skills and experience overseas. However, prolonged emigration has yet to impact unemployment levels; this could have worrying implications for Spain’s economic growth in the long term, potentially slowing economic growth, threatening the repayment of public and private debt, and placing additional strain on Spain’s social security system.

This Transatlantic Council on MIgration report discusses Spain’s changing migration patterns, including obstacles to accurately measuring outflows. It pays special attention to the emigration of young, native-born Spaniards and the possible effects of their emigration. The report describes policies geared toward engaging the increasing number of Spaniards abroad.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. From Boom to Gloom

A. Before the Crisis: Large-Scale Immigration and Economic Growth

B. Evaluating the Impact of the Recession

III. What Is Known About the Emigration of Spanish Citizens

IV. Assessing the Effects of the New Emigration Trends

V. Policy Responses to the New Wave of Emigration

A. Existing Emigration Management and Diaspora Engagement Structures

B. Policy Responses for New Emigration

VI. Conclusion