EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Employment and working conditions of migrant workers – Spain

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Labour market change,
  • Published on: 29 May 2007

Iñigo Isusi, Antonio Corral

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Spain has traditionally been known as a country of emigrants. However, in the last decade, the country has experienced an unprecedented boom of immigration inflow.. In this way, immigrant population has risen from 1.37% of the total population in 1996 to 8.75% at the beginning of 2006. Economic reasons are the main driver for the immigration process, resulting in a higher activity rates than nationals and thus a higher proportion of foreign working people (10.4% of total employed population in 2005). Sectors with the higher internal percentage of foreign workers include construction and agriculture, an also personal services, hotels and restaurant shave a significant presence. However, foreign workers have jobs of a worse quality than nationals (longer hours, lower wages, etc.) and they are in general less satisfied with their jobs than average. A problem of overeducation for the occupations held is rather widespread. On the other hand, illegal immigration is closely linked to work in the underground economy, with even worse working conditions.

1. Sources of information on migrant workers

Different sources of information have been used when preparing this contribution:

2. Information on migrant workers

2.1 Migrant population

Massive immigration is deeply changing the Spanish social and economic system. In fact, Spain has passed from being a country of ‘emigrants’ two generations ago to a country that is absorbing a huge inflow of people from abroad, basically for economic and employment reasons. Thus, the presence of foreign population in the country is becoming more and more prominent, which is generating an increasing public debate on the issue.

The number of foreigners rose considerably the since mid-nineties, and specially, in the last six years: the Spanish Population figures (provided by the Spanish Institute of Statistics, INE) show that in January 2006 there were 3,884,573 foreigners in Spain, which represented a 8.75% of the total population. Thus, the proportion of foreigners over the whole Spanish population has grown rapidly (see Table 1). If in 2002 foreign population did represent a 4.72% of the Spanish population, this percentage has increased to 7.02% in 2004 and 8.46% in 2005 (and 8.75% in January 2006).

Due to this recent inflow, the personal profile of foreigners in Spain still corresponds to the first stadium of the migrant cycle, that is, mainly individuals who come on their own and will be followed by other derivative immigrants (family, friends, etc.). Thus, foreign population is mostly comprised by young adults between 25 and 44 years old, single or not accompanied by their couples, although this profile is likely to change in the near future. To give some data, the Spanish Institute of Statistics’s population figures show (at the beginning of 2006) that 53.45% of the current foreigners living in Spain are male and 46.55% female, with an average of 34 years old in both collectives. Moroccans have the lowest age average (28 years), while the British are the foreigners with a higher average age (52 years).

Table 1: Foreigners registered in the Spanish census according to sex, groups of age and nationality
Table Layout
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
TOTAL POPULATION 41,837,894 42,717,064 43,197,684 44,108,530 44,395,286
TOTAL FOREIGNERS 1,977,946 2,664,168 3,034,326 3,730,610 3,884,573
Male Female 1,048,178 929,767 1,414,750 1,249418 1,605,723 1,428,603 1,992,034 1,738,576 2,076,459 1,808,114
From 0 a 14 years From 15 to 29 years From 30 a 44 years From 44 to 64 years More than 64 years 259,625 591,435 683,201 312,891 130,794 364,575 816,721 915,366 411,916 155,590 440,957 944,354 1,042,853 458,151 148,011 528,713 1,148,241 1,298,029 576,292 179,335 542,214 1,168,280 1,352,956 623,356 197,767
European Community (1) Rest of Europe Africa Latin America North America Asia Oceania Not available 489,813 211,249 423,045 720,212 32,351 98,942 1,746 587 587,686 348,585 522,682 1,032,129 41,398 128,952 2,105 631 636,037 411,169 579,372 1,219,693 42,726 142,828 1,920 581 774,953 577,300 713,974 1,422,874 51,619 186,848 2,321 721 916,113 645,634 741,580 1,331,701 44,709 202,083 2,160 593

(1) From 2004 onwards, the European Community changes to EU-25

Source: Spanish Institute of Statistics, January 2002- January 2006. Elaboration: Ikei

Regarding the place of origin, foreigners come from no less than 30 nationalities which mainly belong to Latin America (34.28% of the total immigrants), the European Community (23.58%), Africa (19.09%) and the rest of Europe (16.62%). The past predominance of the Moroccan has been lessened by the intensification of the migratory flows from Latin America and the East of Europe, where all these groups come to Spain for economic reasons (find a job and a better living status).

In this way, Spain is attending a growing level of human diversity, where the largest country collectives at the beginning of 2006 were the Moroccan (535,009 individuals 13.77% of the total foreigners) and the Ecuatorian (399,585 people, 10.29%), followed by the Rumanian (9.83%), British (7.05%) and Colombian (6.14%). People from these five nationalities make up the 47% of the total amount of foreigners in Spain.

Immigration entails multiple consequences over the Spanish society and economy, which can be summarized in the following general overview:

  • Demographic implications: Immigration has been the main reason for the growth of Spanish population in the last fifteen years. Between 1991 and 2001, immigration involved a 60% of the population growth and, since 2001, this contribution reaches a 90%, as stated by a report by the Foundation “1º de Mayo”, crated by the trade union CC.OO.. Besides, the constant arrival of young women coming from non-developed countries assures a relevant contribution to the Spanish fertility rate. In fact, the number of Spanish births is experiencing an annual sustainable increase since 1997, while this figure did not stop diminishing during the previous two decades.

  • Economic implications: A report on Immigration and the Spanish Economy 1996-2006 elaborated by the Prime Minister’s Economic Office attributes to immigration a 50% of GDP growth during the last five years. This has implied an increase of 600 € in the per-capita income during the same period. The report of the Foundation 1º de Mayo also underlines immigration influence on consumption and employment increase, both engines of the Spanish economic growth. This has helped to establish a positive tax balance (also for the Social Security figures). However, it is argued that the Spanish growth model of the last years is based on more cheap and flexible employment (provided by immigrants) rather than a model based on productivity increases.

  • Social implications: Immigration entails social inequalities in Spain, since foreigners usually accept bad remunerated jobs, what implies a new subordinated class. Thus, whereas it has contributed to raise profits, it is likely to affect salary levels in a negative way. On the whole, it can be suspected that incomes are not being distributed equally, affecting negatively some concrete subgroups of immigrants (those linked with rural jobs). Additionally, there are increasing problems linked to the social integration of the inmigrants.

2.2 Illegal immigration

One of the most important “hot issues” in the current Spanish society is related to the growth of illegal immigration, as well as the negative effects this phenomenon is associated with, such as delinquency or labour exploitation. In fact, the extent of the irregular immigration in Spain is not new, but it has intensified since the beginning of this century. According to some official information provided by the Spanish Institute of Statistics, the number of foreigners in situation of irregularity might reach 1.3 million individuals in July 2005. On the other hand, a significant percentage of people who achieved their regular (legal status) in the past are having problems for renewing their residence permit, due mainly to difficulties for renewing work contracts. In fact, illegal immigration is a very important phenomenon in Spain, as it can be concluded from the extraordinary processes of regularisation that have been frequently applied in previous years. In fact, and since 1986, massive processes of foreign workers’ regularisation have been carried out every 5 years (see Spanish Foundation “1º de Mayo” report).

In this respect, the following generating factors of irregularity can be identified:

  • The difficulty to hire migrant workers in accordance to the law (quotas and contracts at the country of origin), what partially derives from a failure to adapt to the necessities of labour markets.

  • The slow bureaucracy process (especially when processing work permits and renewals).

  • The combination of a strong demand for foreign work with a tightening of the Spanish legal procedures for a regular entry of migrant workers.

  • The scarce syndicalism of the Spanish workforce, especially amongst immigrants.

  • The existence of employers who benefit from hiring illegal migrant workers, where this situation is insufficiently compensated by existing working inspections.

  • Linked to the previous point, the extent of the so-called black economy in Spain, which favours illegal practices.

  • The difficulty to control arrivals and stays in Spain, favoured in some cases by the existence of legal agreements with third countries that favour the arrival of people as visitors (but that afterwards remain in the country, mostly in irregular situations).

2.3 Characteristics of the foreign working population

According to the data provided by the Spanish Labour Force Survey elaborated by the Spanish Institute of Statistics for 2005, approximately one out of ten workers (10,4%) in Spain comes from a foreign country, what is equal to an amount of 2,069,100 foreign workers (workers with double nationality are excluded from this figure). Regarding the characterisation of this collective (see Table 2), 57.4% of the foreign employees are male and 42.6% female, the presence of women being higher than the Spanish average (39.6%). By age, the largest group of Spanish foreign workers is between 25 and 44 years old (38.7%), followed by a 30% of foreigners between 35 to 44 years old. Interestingly enough, the foreign workforce is younger than the Spanish native one (33% of Spanish workers have more than 45 years old in comparison to 18% amongst foreign workers). Meanwhile, the largest share of foreign workers come from Latin America (up to 49% of the total), followed by non-EU European workers (19.8% of the total).

Interestingly also, the presence of an important immigration inflow for economic reasons implies that the activity rate of foreign workers is significantly higher than that of Spanish workers. Thus, and whereas foreign employees show an activity rate of 75.48% (year 2005), this rate is 55.6% in the case of the Spanish native workers. This difference is even wider when taking into account gender considerations (activity rate for foreign males is 84.86% in comparison to 67.18% for Spanish men, and 66.11% for foreign women in comparison to 44.52% amongst Spanish women).

Table 2: Employed Population according to age and sex, by nationality, 2005
Table Layout
Unit: People (thousands)  TOTAL SPANISH Population FOREIGN Population
Spanish Double Nationality TOTAL FOREIGN European Union Rest of Europe Latin America Rest of the World
TOTAL EMPLOYED 18,973.2 16,786.3 117.9 2,069.1 272.7 410.6 1,013.9 371.9
From 16 a 24 years From 25 a 34 years From 35 a 44 years From 45 a 54 years 55 and more years 2,004.3 5,709.1 5,276.0 3,892.2 2,091.6 1,708.6 4,873.6 4,617.1 3,574.9 2,012.0 15.4 34.6 37.2 21.3 9.4 280.2 801.0 621.8 296.0 70.1 19.4 82.3 87.5 58.0 25.5 68.9 165.1 108.5 61.0 7.2 148.1 393.9 305.9 136.7 29.3 43.8 159.7 119.8 40.4 8.1
MALE 11,388.8 10,140.7 60.6 1,187.5 153.4 234.2 506.1 293.8
From 16 a 24 years From 25 a 34 years From 35 a 44 years From 45 a 54 years 55 and more years 1,167.8 3,263.7 3,150.2 2,398.7 1,408.4 996.9 2,788.1 2,761.0 2,232.8 1,361.9 7.8 17.5 19.6 10.7 5.0 163.0 458.2 369.6 155.1 41.5 10.5 48.5 46.9 31.1 16.4 36.2 95.5 62.1 37.0 3.4 83.3 188.1 163.4 55.7 15.5 33.0 126.2 97.2 31.3 6.1
FEMALE 7,584.4 6,645.5 57.3 881.6 119.3 176.4 507.8 78.1
From 16 a 24 years From 25 a 34 years From 35 a 44 years From 45 a 54 years 55 and more years 836.5 2,445.4 2,125.9 1,493.5 683.1 711.7 2,085.5 1,856.1 1,342.1 650.1 7.6 17.1 17.6 10.6 4.4 117.2 342.8 252.2 140.8 28.6 8.9 33.9 40.6 26.8 9.0 32.7 69.6 46.4 24.0 3.8 64.8 205.8 142.5 80.9 13.8 10.8 33.5 22.7 9.1 2.0

Source: Spanish Labour Force Survey, 2005. Elaboration: Ikei

In addition to this, a research elaborated by FEDEA (Labor Market Assimilation of Immigrants in Spain: Employment at the Expense of Bad Job-Matches?) shows that foreign population’s unemployment rates are relatively similar to that of natives, although, again, important differences can be noticed by gender considerations (foreign males have an unemployment rate 2.2% points higher than that of Spaniards, while foreign females have it 3.5% points lower). Amongst foreigners, those coming from Non-EU European and Latin American countries show the lowest unemployment rates, while the opposite is true for those coming from Africa. Interestingly also, unemployment rates are lower for those foreign workers who have several years of residence in Spain.

Having in mind the previous figures, it is possible to identify several reasons explaining the current existing demand for foreign workers in the Spanish economy. These reasons are several, such as the fact that immigrants are occupying job positions scarcely attractive for the native Spanish workers or the opportunities opened for employers in a number of sectors, so immigrants are used to reduce costs (lower salaries, worse working conditions) and therefore higher profitability levels (see research conducted by FEDEA).

2.4 The distribution of foreign workers across sectors and occupations

From a sector perspective, the available data from the Spanish Labour Force Survey shows that the most usual sectors for foreign workers are tertiary activities (65.0% of the foreign total, specially in HORECA sectors and personal services), followed by a 17.3% in manufacturing activities, 12.4% in the construction and 5.3% in agriculture (data for 2005). Meanwhile, and from a relative perspective, the economic sectors with the higher internal percentage of foreign workers include construction and agriculture (18.7% and 15.0% of the total sector workers are foreigners, respectively) (see Table 3).

The proportion of men is noteworthy higher than women in all the sectors of activity, with the only exception of services where 64,1% of the foreign workers are female. Thus, the share of men in the manufacturing and primary sector almost multiplies by four that of the women, whereas in construction 97.9% of the foreign workers are male.

With respect to nationality, the presence of Latin American people is particularly important in the manufacturing and especially in the tertiary and construction sectors (37.9%, 54.4% and 47.3% of foreign workers come from Latin America, respectively). By way of contrast, primary activities show an important presence of foreign workers from a varied geographical origin (see also Table 1), although non-EU European workers are the main group.

Table 3: Employed Population according to nationality by sectors and sex
Table Layout
 Unit: People (thousands) Agriculture Industry Construction Services
Male Female TOTAL Male Female TOTAL Male Female TOTAL Male Female TOTAL
TOTAL 731.2 269.5 1,000.7 2,467.0 813,0 3,279.9 2,230.1 127.1 2,357.2 5,960.5 6,374.8 12,335.3
SPANISH POPULATION 614.0 237.3 851.2 2,267.4 755.8 3,023.2 1,799.2 118.3 1,917.6 5,520.7 5,591.4 1,1112.1
Spanish Double Nationality 612.9 1.1 236.8 0.5 849.6 1.6 2,257.9 9.5 752.1 3.7 3.010.0 13.2 1,785.5 13.7 117.5 0.8 1,903.1 14.5 5,484.4 36.3 5,539.1 52.3 11,023.5 88.6
FOREIGN POPULATION 117.2 32.3 149.5 199.6 57.1 256.7 430.8 8.9 439.7 439.8 783.4 1,223.2
European Union Rest of Europe Latin America Rest of the World 4.5 34.4 32.4 45.9 2.5 16.2 10.9 2.7 7,0 50.6 43.2 48.6 27,0 40.7 70.5 61.3 11.3 10.4 26.8 8.7 38.3 51.1 97.3 70.0 34.1 101.0 203.9 91.9 2.6 0.9 4.0 1.4 36.7 101.9 207.9 93.3 87.7 58.1 199.4 94.7 103.0 149.0 466.2 653.0 190.7 207.0 665.5 160.0

Source: Survey on Active Population, 2005. Elaboration: Ikei

Interestingly also, it is worth stressing that there are important differences in the type of jobs carried out by the foreign population according to its geographical origin. Just to give some data, the majority (41%) of the non-EU foreign workers is concentrated on unqualified occupations (data for 2005 from the Spanish Labour Force Survey), while the predominant group amongst EU foreign workers correspond to scientists, intellectual technicians and professionals (with a share of 20.2%).

2.5 The contractual relations of migrants

According to the information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (in its Statistical Yearbook), the number of registered contracts to foreign workers has increased a positive 78.3% between 2003 and 2005 (from 1.5 million to 2.7 million) , clearly above the total average (17.0%). In fact, and taken into account the 2005 year, the share of contracts registered to foreigners in relation to the Spanish total has reached a peak of 16.0%, 2,745,243 contracts in total terms. By geographical origin, the largest share of contracts to foreigners corresponds to Latin America and Africa (38.6% and 28.9% of the 2005 contracts to foreigners come from these places respectively. Meanwhile, the five most important country origins (in terms of signed contracts) correspond to Morocco, Ecuador, Rumania, Colombia and Peru.

Table 4: Registered Contracts to Foreign Workers according to length of contract and working hours
Table Layout
Working hours Length of contract 2005
TOTAL Contracts Foreign Contracts
Total Full-Time Part-Time
Permanent Temporary 1,542,838 15,622,127 237,178 2,508,065 160,429 2,068,073 76,749 439,992
Total 17,164,965 2,745,243 2,228,502 516,741

Source: Statistical Yearbooks from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 2003-2005

Interestingly also, contracts carried out with foreigners are mainly characterised by their temporary and full-time nature. Thus, and taking into account the 2005 data, 81.2% of the contracts to foreigners had a full-time basis, whereas the remaining 18.8% has a part-time nature. Meanwhile, 91.4% of the total contracts to foreigners had a temporary nature, in comparison to 8.6% share of permanent contracts, where this share is slightly lower than the Spanish average (9.0%) (see Table 4)

2.6 Working conditions of immigrants

  • sections of this report have mentioned how foreign workers (especially those from some concrete geographical origins) are particularly concentrated on specific unqualified occupations characterised by deficient working conditions, low remuneration level and temporary/seasonal nature. The ‘Survey on Quality of Life in the Workplace’ elaborated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs provides information by place of birth of the workers, which can help to describe these situations.

  • of all, the Survey confirms the unstable nature of foreign workers employment, as percentages of the less secure contract formulas double those of native workers (i.e. temporary contract 12.2% against 6.6%, contract by work or service 16.5% against 8.5%, trial contract 3.7% against 1.3%, etc.).

Longer working days and low salaries are also characteristic amongst foreign workers, where irregular practices (no enrolment in the Social Security regime) are also typical for this group. Regarding working time, the data reveals that foreign personnel work in general more hours than the average. Thus the percentage of people working more than 41 hours a week is 41.6% amongst foreign workers against 32.5% of the Spanish average. Foreign workers also work more often overtime, at night and during week-ends (see table 5). Interestingly enough, the Survey shows how a greater proportion of non nationals are willing to work more hours in order to earn more money.

Regarding remuneration, the level of wages shows to be lower for foreign workers: 65.9% of them earn less than 1,205 euro/month, while 50.8% of the average is in that range.

With respect to physical conditions, according to the Survey the work of foreign people seems to involve physical effort more often than for the native personnel, but on the contrary it does not imply more stressful work or riskier conditions. This result somehow collides with some official data on work accidents, as foreign workers suffer relatively more accidents than native Spanish (the high accident rate in the construction sector is at the root of this situation). Thus, official information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs on accidents reveals that 8.4 out of every 100,000 foreign workers died in labour accidents during the year 2005, whereas this rate is 6.3 for the total Spanish workers. In absolute terms, the number of accidents among immigrants rose to 78,395 in 2005, of which almost the 99% correspond to slight accidents.

Table 5: Working conditions of foreign workers
Table Layout
Unit: vertical % of workers TOTAL Workers Average Foreign Workers
Working time 41 working hours or more Overtime (always/usually) At night (always) Weekend Willing to work more hours for more money . 32.5 12.9 3.9 40.0 25.8 . 41.6 17.2 8.3 54.7 37.3
Salary <600 € 601–1,205 € 1,206–2,105 € >2,106 € DK/NA . 9.6 41.2 18.3 2.6 27.4 . 13.2 52.7 12.1 1.1 20.2
Physical Conditions Physical Effort (always/usually) Risky Conditions (always/usually) Stressful Work (always/usually) . 21.9 12.9 28.6 . 33.2 13.5 26.9
Satisfaction rate (% of workers satisfied/very satisfied) With Work in general With salary With physical workplace With health/safety With working organisation . 50.9 51.7 79.0 76.9 70.6 . 42.0 46.1 71.0 70.3 62.5

Source: Survey on Life Quality at Workplace, Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 2004

As a result, foreign workers tend to be less satisfied with their job than the rest, which applies to the work in general (42% satisfied/very satisfied against 50.9% average) as well as to salary, physical environment of the workplace, health and safety conditions or work organisation.

According to the research conducted by FEDEA in 2006, the process of integration of the foreign workers in the Spanish labour market is quite different to that of the local native population. Thus, current immigrants enter the Spanish labour market via sectors of low qualification, characterised by a higher presence of temporary contracts in comparison to the national average. Interestingly also, the fact that around ¾ of the foreign labour force is concentrated on specific branches of activity (this is construction, agriculture, restaurant/food-industry and housework activities) characterised by worse working conditions explains also the general bad situation of foreign workers in comparison to native ones.

2.7 Level of education and occupational position: over-qualification and under-qualification

Over-education is another problem to be added to this precarious situation of immigrants.

According to the ‘Survey on Quality of Life in the Workplace’, in general, the education level of foreign employees is not lower than that of native ones (see table 6). In fact, more than a quarter of immigrant workers declare to have University studies, above the 22% percent of the average.

Table 6: Education and training of foreign workers
Table Layout
Unit: vertical % of workers TOTAL Workers Average Foreign Workers
Education level Illiterate Primary studies Secondary studies Vocational studies University studies . 3.0 16.0 36.0 18.5 22.5 . 3.8 12.6 41.7 9.9 28.4
Training (% of total) Lower working status than education level Training activities offered in the company Participation in the training activities offered . 17.4 31.4 17.6 . 32.4 20.8 10.2

Source: Survey on Life Quality at Workplace, Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, 2004

The Survey also shows thar about one third of foreign worker performs a job with a working status which is inferior to their level of education, making it difficult any professional progress. Additionally, immigrants seem to have less access to training activities fostered by their companies.

On the other hand, the available information from Statistical Yearbook of the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs shows that the largest share of contracts made to foreign workers corresponds to people with non-technical formation and low educational levels. Thus, a 66.4% of the foreign workers who signed a contract in 2004 had some kind of compulsory education up to the level of secondary studies, where a 14.9% had not even completed primary studies and 12.9% were illiterate. Compared to the previous information, these data reveals the existence of an important group of under-qualified immigrants that are repeatedly contracted on short-term temporary basis.

This question has a clear translation by nationalities, the lowest educational levels corresponding to foreign workers of Africa, whereas the highest education levels correspond to EU citizens and North Americans.

2.8 Union representation and collective bargaining

The increasing presence of foreign workers in the Spanish labour market is generating a growing discussion about migration in the Spanish society, attracting the attention of policy-makers and social partners about the best way to successfully manage this new challenge. In this sense, the two most important Spanish trade unions (CCOO and UGT) are developing a number of specific actions aimed at fostering working conditions and affiliate figures amongst foreign workers. Thus, and on the one hand, CCOO is currently carrying out an important effort to increase the number of affiliates amongst migrant workers where, at the same time, has developed a specific route in its web page specifically aimed at this group of people (where information about laws and other relevant information can be found). On the other hand, UGT has also developed a concrete domain for foreign workers in its webpage. In addition, UGT publishes on a periodical basis comprehensive information related to regulations, guides for foreigners, a catalogue of high demand occupations, lists of interesting addresses, etc. Very interestingly, UGT has participated in a project intended to establish mechanisms and structures to provide an effective management of labour migration movements in both origin and host countries, helping also to prevent and combat irregular labour migration, promote social and labour integration/inclusion of migrants and, finally, protect foreign workers' labour rights. This project has been signed between UGT and CTC (a Colombian Trade Union) and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Labour and Foreign Affairs.

In addition to the activities carried out by the Spanish trade unions, public authorities also promote different actions for supporting and advising foreign workers. In this sense, the Spanish Government has recently presented a draft for the Strategic Plan of Citizenship and Integration for the period 2006-2009. Interesting also, the National Forum for Social Integration of Immigrants, created in 1994, and belonging to the Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (by means of the Secretariat of Emigration and Immigration), pursues the participation and integration of foreigners legally established in Spain.

Not only at national level but also at regional and local level, projects of this nature have been set up since 2001 onwards, focused on the integration of foreigners. Some examples include the II Plan for Immigration in Andalusia 2005-2009, the Plan for Social Integration of Immigrants from the region of Murcia (2002-2004) or the Canarian Plan for Immigration 2005-2007. Likewise, there exist several NGOs and immigrants associations whose main goal is to successfully integrate immigrants into the Spanish society. Relevant examples include CEAR (Spanish Commission for helping the Refugee), COMRADE (Committee for Defense of Refugees and Immigrants in Spain), OMI (Multicultural Organisation providing Services for Integration of Immigrants in Catalunya and the world), the Federation of Associations of SOS Racism.

3. Commentary by the NC

The Spanish labour market has experienced a dramatic change in the last fifteen years which is narrowly linked to a very important inflow of immigrants, mainly from Latin America, Northern Africa and Eastern Europe. Thus, 8.75% of the total Spanish population is currently of foreign origin, whereas a decade ago this percentage was of 1.37%. At least a 10.4% of the occupied population is of foreign origin, not including the underground economy, where important numbers of illegal immigrants work. This important inflow of people is having a number of deep consequences for the Spanish society and economy, basically in demographic terms (population growth), as well as economic and social implications (increase in GDP, consumption levels, positive effects on the tax balance, as well as wage restraint effects on some sectors). All in all, it is argued that the Spanish current growth model is largely based on an increase in cheap and flexible employment supply (mainly provided by immigrants) rather than a model based on productivity increases. In these sense, important problems regarding the labour (and social) integration of immigrants remain. Foreign workers are very often subject to unfavourable working conditions (low wages, longer working hours, work accidents, low category jobs for which they are overqualified, etc.). In these sense, the future sustainability of this model in the long run is subject to important uncertainties.

Inigo Isusi and Antonio Corral, IKEI


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  • Cachón L, “Inmigración y Mercado de Trabajo en España: Integración a Través del Trabajo y Lucha contra la Discriminación” (Immigration and Labour Market in Spain: Integration by Means of Employment and Fighting against Discrimination), in: Fundación 1º de Mayo, Madrid, February 2006.

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  • Fernández C & C Ortega, Labour Market Assimilation of Immigrants in Spain: Employment at the Expense of Bad Job-Matches?, in: FEDEA, Madrid, 2006.

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  • Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Survey on Life Quality at Workplace, 2004, Madrid.

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