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Foreign workers helping to boost Spain's economy

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-25 01:02

Argentinian postdoctoral researcher in distributed systems Marianela Morales adjusts her hair as she prepares to pose for a portrait at her work station in her Madrid home, Spain, on April 19. [Photo/Agencies]

Immigrant workers from South America have helped Spain's economy outperform other European nations, according to analysis from the International Monetary Fund, or IMF.

The workers, who have arrived in the hundreds of thousands in recent years to fill labor shortages that ballooned after the nation emerged from novel coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, have been especially visible in the technology and restaurant sectors.

The IMF said their impact on the country's economy has mirrored a similar phenomenon seen in the economy of the United States, with the influx of foreign workers boosting the supply of labor and raising the growth rate of the country's economy, despite, in Spain's case, the nation having the European Union's highest unemployment rate, at 11.8 percent.

The IMF is now predicting the Spanish and US economies are likely to grow at the fastest rate among the world's advanced economies during the coming two years.

Jesus Fernandez-Huertas, a professor in the economy of immigration at the Carlos III University in Madrid, told the Reuters news agency: "As Spain's economy improves, migrants come, and as they come, the economy improves."

Raymond Torres, chief economist at Funcas, a Madrid-based think tank, told Reuters immigration accounted for 64 percent of all jobs created in Spain during 2023, and half of the country's economic growth that year.

Funcas has calculated that the wave of new arrivals has increased the proportion of resident foreigners in Spain to 18.1 percent, while the European Union average stands at 13.3 percent.

The think tank said the influx of immigrants has also changed the type of work being done by new arrivals, with them having mainly occupied low-skilled positions in the past but with their increasing presence in the country meaning they are now also in demand in the technology and science sectors.

Reuters said the economic benefit the migrants have brought to the country has even been recognized by previously anti-immigrant political parties, with the Vox party, for example, now openly supporting immigration from Latin America, even though it continues to call for curbs on arrivals from Africa.

But, despite the obvious benefits to Spain's economy of the influx of foreign workers, some critics have sounded warnings, with unions in particular saying some companies seem to be recruiting experienced or qualified foreign workers cheaply, instead of taking the time to properly train unemployed Spanish workers.

Jose Antonio Moreno, head of migration at the Spain's largest trade union, the Workers' Commissions, told Reuters the foreign workers have been driving down the wages of Spanish workers because they have taken jobs that around 2.5 million unemployed Spaniards would not accept because of poor pay or conditions.

"Social dumping cannot be allowed to take place," he added.

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