Immigration has long been a part of history since the early century as the early civilizations learnt of each other, fostering camaraderie and partnership between nations to improve the country. Many stories of immigration are detailed throughout history, especially those who immigrated due to wars and discrimination in their home lands. Through the years, immigration became a part of each nation, whether for the better or for the worst. According to the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police, immigrants or migrants tend to move and live far away from their native countries due to the following reasons: poor living conditions and financial incapacity, domestic conflicts, environmental concerns, and the capacity of developed countries to provide jobs and higher salary. In the present time, these are the four reasons which determines the global trends of migration of almost 175 million people from different nationalities.
Most of the immigrants today immigrate to other regions because of poor economic standing and living conditions, improved by living in developed countries. The developed nations are now opening its doors to the public, making people attracted in the prospect of migrating. Given that developed countries are now accessible, immigrants/migrants also move out of their home countries because of the worst living climate and economic stagnation in their origin, affected by environmental catastrophes and economic decline. Economic decline may have been brought up by unstable economic and financial policy, legal stability and the long term issues pertaining to the country in question. However, there are also immigrants who are forced to move out of their homelands due to violence and oppression. Several wars have forced people to immigrate into other nations to save their families from death and devastation. Although, some were forced out to immigrate to other nations due to discrimination and oppression against their groups. Groups of people from different ethnic groups, religion and minorities have been forced out due to discrimination and strict policies involving their groups .
Aside from the United States, many opted to immigrate to the European territories for the hopes of gaining new life and a steady income. According to the assessment of the Council of Europe, migration flows have been influenced by political and economic changes since the 20th century. From 1945-2000, three major factors had made Europe a preferred alternative to migrants as their destination of choice: the oil crisis in 1973, diversification of migration flows, and finally, the increase of international mobility. With regards to the oil crisis in 1973, it had made Europe’s policies on labor immigration lift and allow foreign admissions, changing migration for both labor and family based rulings. Asylum and refugee admissions were also opened to immigrants, allowing migration to be diverse in the region. The diversification of migration flows had been influenced by the Second World War, easing up access to Europe for workers from Southern Europe (Italy, Spain and Greece to move north. As the years progressed, the migration count of Europe had increases significantly since 1990. Finally, the improved global mobility had opened Europe to the forefront of immigration and improved ties with European states. With all these developments in mind, migration had gradually increased throughout the European nations, causing both benefit and complication .
With regards to Spain, the country had received a high rate of migrants since the start of the 21st century. According to the September 2005 Eurobarometer reading, migration became the fifth most important issue for European states after unemployment, crime, economic situation and social health. By 2008, the problem on immigration became the third most important problem for the region. Nonetheless, new migration patterns have been seen throughout Southern EU states, especially in Spain as colonial and historical patterns have kick started immigration. From Spanish-speaking countries to those with colonial ancestry, many opted to move back to Spain or try immigrating to the country for the opportunity to live in the country. However, while there are people who opted to migrate to Spain, there was also a verge of emigration as six million Spanish citizens have left Spain. They moved through Northern Europe up to the United States, but the trends have decreased since the beginning of Spain’s economic growth.
Spain is currently considered a best immigration hotspot for both illegal and legal immigration after the United States. Many saw Spain as a quiet country, an attractive location for businessmen and the wealthy to retire, especially in areas such as Costa del Sol and Balearic Islands. Spain also became an attractive migration spot for immigrants from North European countries due to the country’s warmer and manageable climates. A few also see Spain as a location for more specialized employment and a more efficient health-education-employment sector for their families considering the standards of the European system. Since 2010, almost 500,000 immigrants have come to Spain since 2001, meaning that it is now the second largest immigrant host after the United States. It also resulted to the country’s increased population. Currently it is difficult to quantify as to the general nature of Spain’s immigration situation, but it can be accounted to political, social, and economic factors . However, it is now a question if immigration plays a key role in Spain’s development and capability given the statistics on incoming immigrants and the problem on recession experienced around the globe. As noted above, the reasons for migration have substantially increased due to the ongoing issues in various nations, but emigration is also an issue for Spain. Nonetheless, immigration had visibly played a key role in Spain’s development as it enabled the country to develop its economy and sustain diversity despite the ongoing crisis happening both locally and internationally.
Spain greatly sees immigrants as an important factor to society due to the economic benefit it receives from the immigrant labor force. The benefits range from economic improvement to the diversification of the Spanish labor force. In a study done by the IDEAS Foundation for Progress in 2011, Spain’s immigration rate has allowed the economy to grow significantly during the economic boom years and allowed the country to sustain its ground despite the ongoing recession both in Europe and in the world. Over the past decade, 60% economic growth can be attributed to the increasing number of immigrants to the country. The economic growth is then supported by the increase in the country’s per capita income, rising up to 32% or 23,000 euros per capita in 2010 through immigrants. Almost 15% of foreign migrants also account to the country’s labor market improvement and the 10% of the country’s gross domestic product is from the overseas labor sector. Aside from this, immigration had allowed a steady flow of economic activity in the country despite the current crisis. The study done by IDEAS Foundation even attested that immigration would play a vital role in the recovery process as Spain is also experiencing the recession in the Eurozone. Without immigration, it is likely that Spain would experience the brunt of the ongoing recession.
Export rate has also increased due to the high rate of immigration to the country. In the study conducted by Giovanni Peri and Francisco Requena-Silvente, both immigration and exports have increased since 1995-2008. Trade had increased to 44% since 2008, allowing exporting firms to grow from 58,000 firms to 100,000 through the time period. In their assessment, the doubled number of immigrants enables a Spanish province to increase export values between the country and the country of origin of immigrants. This is due to the diverse nationalities of immigrants, enabling new borders for the Spanish market to reach and trade. With the opened channels, Spanish export firms would be applicable to reduced cost of setting up businesses and taxes for export. New types of export goods are also introduced to Spain due to immigrant populations such as manufacturing goods and basic commodities. In exchange for these goods, Spain would open up trade and specialized services only available in the country. Immigrants also aid in exports because they promote exports from Spain, especially if the immigrant in question is from a culture very different to Spain .
Aside from the direct contribution of immigrants to the economy, there is also the indirect impacts of foreign workers to the labor market and to Spain’s production capacity. There is an actual increase of native employment to employ Spanish workers who could work well with tasks by immigrants, especially for shifting work and skilled jobs. The complementarity also aids in increasing salaries paid to native workers, allowing more jobs and training for Spanish workers, and also the improvement of the skill set currently held by the Spanish population. Immigration also influences Spain’s young and the unskilled sector as it provides improved education and training, which also provides additional support to low-skilled immigrant unemployed in the country. Improved access to education and training for employment is also a means to integrate immigrants to the Spanish labor market and assist the local laborers.
Finally, immigrants also paved the way for Spanish women to join the labor market since some immigrants, namely the women, have substituted for natives on domestic duties. The substitution aided in the recalibration of employment opportunities for native women, allowing them to work without the need to worry about their house duties. The increased number of women workers in the market had also allowed diversity in available job opportunities . Aside from this, the presence of women immigrants had contributed to secondary services and social security. It is also easier for the Spanish families to employ women immigrant workers and allow them breathing ground because they can easily communicate with them .
Aside from the economic benefit of immigrants in Spain, open policy on immigration and availability of policies actually reduces the possibilities of the country succumbing to an additional economic crisis and potential political/social decline. Since the population of the country continues to age rapidly, it is essential to recruit more people to the country to sustain the balance of the country from the work sector to the political sector. If Spain see immigrants as negative aspects of society, the country may not be able to sustain social balance. Aside from this, studies agree that immigrants would also fill in gaps to the country which natives would not try to improve, such as domestic and farm work. If the government even forces the creation of stricter immigration policies, it is possible that Spain would not be able to sustain the demand for labor and be unable to reach boundaries not normally tackled by Spanish citizens.
Demographic diversity, and cultural awareness, are also a benefit for Spain when it comes to the presence of migrants in the country. The country has already experienced a drop in fertility rate since 1975, reaching up to 1.161 points in 1996. The rate is considered very low, reflecting that Spanish maternity and birth rate is also at a decline. With the increased immigrant count in the country, it has improved the population of the country significantly. At least 637,087 of the 39,852,651 total population of the country are immigrants in 1998. As years progress, the number of immigrants would likely increase up to 11.5%. Assessment also shows that immigration, while does not influence in the fertility and mortality rate of Spanish women significantly, increases live birth rate in the country . Given the increase in population due to immigrants, it also caters to the cultural diversity Spain is known for.
While the benefits of immigration for Spain had reaped bounties due to the improved economic capability of the country, there are still sentiments that immigration is actually detrimental for Spain. Public sentiment from Spanish citizens differ when it comes to immigration. In an interview to my Spanish gaming friend Luis Torres, he stated that "I have nothing against immigrants coming here in Spain. The country offers diverse culture, tradition, and opportunities for those who wish for something new. Actually I find them interesting because it opens up my perception to why immigration continues and why immigrants love our country" . However, on another interview with another Spanish gaming friend Diego Blanco, he stated a contradiction to Luis' remark. For Diego, he stressed "Immigrants add to the problem of the country when it comes to unemployment. Sure there are people who are more talented in a craft than a Spanish citizen, I believe the government and businesses should give more of the jobs to the currently unemployed Spanish citizens before giving the rest to the immigrants.“. These sentiments mirror the debates on whether or not the Spanish public should accept the increasing number of immigrants in the country. In the 2005 Centre for Sociological Research poll regarding public perception of Spanish citizens towards immigration, 40% had identified immigration as the country’s main issue. The results mirror my friend Diego’s sentiment, as Spaniards see immigrants as a problem. In addition, according to the survey, 59.6% of Spaniards claim that there are just too many foreigners in the country and believe that they hurt the economic prospects of poor Spaniards. There is also the sentiment that immigrant should be deported from the country back to their home countries, especially if they committed a crime or remained unemployed for a long time .
Finally, crime had also been prominent in Spain due to the presence of immigrants. In some cases, even immigrants themselves become victim to Spanish crimes. In the study done by Cesar Alonso-Borrego, Nuno Garoupa and Pablo Vazquez in 2012, statistics from the Ministry of the Interior pertaining to crimes throughout the provinces of Spain showcase that per every crime committed in a location where immigrants are said to stay most, crime rate increases in areas with more economic stability. In this case, it calls on criminals – may they be locals or immigrants, to commit crimes They also stated that the immigrants’ educational level and capacity to understand and speak Spanish also influences the increase in crime rate, but this aspect only affects moderately .
In terms of immigrants becoming victim to crimes in Spain, the most prominent example is ongoing eviction law reform in the country. Many immigrants report cases wherein they were victimized by mortgage funding firms and were abused by the government’s eviction laws as they are not allowed to challenge the clauses of their mortgage. According to the interview to Ecuadorian People’s Defender Office Ombudsman Ramiro Rivadeneira, he said that the government does not take legal action to protect the rights of citizens, both residents and immigrants. Ecuadorian immigrants are also being preyed upon by fraudulent schemes, especially by real estate firms, calling them that they did not pay their mortgage. Some were evicted out of their homes, and a few had been forced to pay. Reform and protest have been issued by immigrants, calling for immediate government action to fraud companies forcing them to poverty like the rest of the Spanish citizens victimized by the same companies . These crimes to immigrants can be considered an act of discrimination, isolation and racism, which many may say a violation of their human rights.
It may be certain that the presence of immigrants in Spain only opens the country to more risks in crime and adds to the problem of Spaniards in terms of unemployment and opportunity, but, given much thought and study about the issue shows studies that prove this sentiment otherwise. In addition to the economic, demographic, and social/political balance immigration ensures for Spain, the negative sentiments on immigrants can be refuted. With regards to the public sentiment and unemployment rates of the country, there are already steps that the Spanish government is settling to ensure that evaluation, monitoring, and training will be applied to ensure that Spanish workers would be capable of competing with immigrant laborers upon their graduation. Currently, 30% of the younger sector aged 15 to 29 leave school with just lower secondary education, leaving them only a few job opportunities. It also takes a long time for these workers to get employment and compete with immigrant workers. In response to this problem, the government, alongside the European Union, are now specifying reforms to improve early childhood to graduate education to ensure that Spanish citizens could also compete against their fellow employers. Reforms such as the Proyecto de Ley de Economia Sostenible shows Spain’s goal to ensure that anyone can compete with the immigrant workers. The project certifies continuous vocational courses and opens up the doors of the Spanish citizens (and or the immigrants who take part in the course) to potential employers requiring specialized positions .
In the case of crime, the crime rate in Spain is actually very low compared to the rest of the European countries. In an experience shared by my childhood friend Lisa Daniels who recently migrated to Madrid with her family in January, she narrated “I felt very safe on our first few weeks in Madrid, especially with the community we are staying at. People were very friendly towards us even if we come from another country. My Spanish accent still needed some work, which would tell anyone I come from America. But, it didn’t matter. No one tried to hurt me and people even assisted me when I needed help” . The statement made by Lisa is supported by a study for the Fedea 2008 Report wherein crime has actually decreased in Spain and it’s not just immigrants who commit the crime, also the nationals commit crime and contribute to crime rate growth in some instances. According to the study, it is exaggerated to say that immigrants amount to the increase in crime rate as the presence of immigrants in Spanish society actually improves socioeconomic prospects. The government, according to the study, should enforce policies that would be attached to immigration policies to reduce possibility of crimes in the country and attract low crime immigration.
While immigration can be seen as a detriment to Spain’s development as a thriving European nation, the benefits of immigration to its economic, social, and political development is unwarranted given the current crisis in the European region. On the one hand, there may be instances wherein crime is rampant throughout Spain due to illegal immigrants or presently employed immigrants and the public perception that there are too much immigrants in the country, causing unemployment for Spanish citizens to ensue. However, it is undeniable that without immigration, the country would be experiencing heavy losses and possible economic downfall as the Spanish people cannot sustain the effects of the ongoing recession. Lack of immigrants in the area would also reduce open opportunities for Spaniards to reach out to other countries and experience diverse culture. It is essential to permit immigrants to work and live in Spain as it would enable the country to hold on to its steady path to recovery.
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