British expats are among thousands voting with their feet and moving elsewhere as Spain’s economy continues to struggle.
Things are now so bad in the country that the stampede of deserting expats has registered Spain’s first population drop since 1857, when records began.
With unemployment now running at 26%, the country’s National Statistics Institute has revealed that the population is 47.1 million, a fall of 206,000, and the missing thousands are nearly all foreigners heading home.
Among them is a growing number of fed-up Brits who are faced with a number of challenges, not least the fact that many cannot sell their homes to move back to the UK.
Even immigrants from South America, particularly Colombians and Ecuadoreans, have left to find work back in their home countries because there are more jobs there.
Albert Esteve, from Barcelona’s Centre for Demographic Studies, said: “There are no jobs in Spain which makes it less attractive for immigrants and the country saw growth in immigration between 2000 and 2009 which is now reversing quickly because of the economic crisis.”
Against this flood of people leaving, Spaniards aged between 18 and 30 are the first in the country’s history who have been guaranteed a lower quality of life than their parents.
This is a generation of well-educated, middle class young people who are working in poorly paying jobs and who are unlikely to ever buy a property – the Spanish call them the mileuristas.
With property prices crashing by 30% since the housing crisis, and financial analysts predicting another 10% drop, there is a glut of unsold and empty properties waiting for buyers, which the mileuristas are still unlikely to be in a position to buy.
However, with the plummeting Sterling now nearly at parity with the Euro, many thousands of British expats are also stuck in homes that are now in negative equity.
Spaniards have little sympathy for the plight of Brits since many have opted to live in what have been dubbed as ‘expat ghettos’ where many do not mix with locals and do not speak Spanish.
They still enjoy the comforts of home, such as British pubs, but many have struggled financially with the Pound’s fall and rising living costs – especially keeping a home warm in winter.
Another major problem which has arisen recently surrounds new Spanish tax laws which will affect the estimated 200,000 expats who are facing hefty fines if they don’t declare all of their financial assets in Spain and abroad.
With many fearing another Cyprus-style cash grab on their assets, many British expats have simply handed in their residence cards and returned to the UK.