Globe, Migrants, Multiculture, United Kingdom

Spaniards and their migrations in the 20th century

Spaniards are facing the inevitable issue of unemployment. Having been forced to abandon their country, they are now enduring the harsh reality which Latin Americans have known only too well for the past few decade, who have almost always been confined to roles in the cleaning industry regardless of any professional qualifications they may have.’ (The Prisma Memoirs)


Ignacio M. Prada


“Upon completing your studies in Spain, you are faced with two options:  leave by plane or by sea.” Joking about such difficult times is an easy and perhaps also a logical means of overcoming the setback.

Young Spaniards are simply not finding work in their own country.

There exists no guarantee of decent work to accommodate the enormous quantity of qualified workers which the universities and professional education centres are producing incessantly.

Every year there are even more graduates, engineers, architects, semi-professionals, all being forced to stand by and wait when they finish their studies.  The labour market has come to a standstill in Spain.

It’s not even necessary to look at the statistics that bear witness to this. One need only take a trip to London to make certain of the fact that, along with Paris and Berlin, the British capital is transforming into one of the main places of refuge for young people tired of seeking work in Spain to no avail. These youngsters simply packed their bags and caught a flight in search of a better future, with the outlook of an immigrant.

Miracles don’t exist

“Staying in Spain was like waiting for the eternal miracle” maintains Antonio Mesa, a law graduate and holder of two Master’s degrees.

At 26 he has spent a year living in England.  “I sent off about two hundred C.Vs before coming here. I adapted each one slightly depending on the job which I was hoping to get. I only received three replies, each one telling me that they weren’t currently looking to hire anyone but thanking me for considering them as potential employers,” recalls Antonio , with a certain air of sadness. “I would spend every day and night staring at my inbox. I didn’t want to believe that my hard work had been in vain! After two months, I’d had enough and one day decided to make the move to London. I needed a change.

He arrived in London alone, with just his rucksack.  He now works as a waiter in a bar and complains about having to pull pints and serve cups of coffee after having spent the majority of his youth studying at university.

He simply feels as though he has not received the expected reward for all his hard work. “How can it be if there are increasing numbers of graduates and more people studying, that our country is falling further and further apart?”

There are, in fact, thousands of youngsters like Antonio who are drowning in a sea of disappointment, being labelled and stigmatised as forming  part of a “lost generation”, in spite of the fact that the latter is the best trained generation that Spain has ever produced.

These youngsters are simply outraged with politicians, the harsh adjustment procedures, the recapitalisation of the financial situation by means of public money as well as the gradual impoverishment which their nation is facing.

And depending on the source consulted, unemployment rates among young people in Spain (those less than 25 years old) are around 45% of the active population. Overall, according to Eurostat, a Directorate-General of the European Commission providing detailed statistics, the rate of unemployment in the Spanish state is currently greater than 22%: more than 5 million unemployed people.  This is the highest rate of unemployment in the whole of the European Union.

Veteran Immigrants

Perhaps it’s the massive international influence that the UK holds which has resulted in it being a top choice for many immigrants.  What is certain, however, is that everyday London welcomes people from all corners of the earth.

For several generations, the economic growth of the country together with their open-minded policies have proven to be sufficient reasons to choose the UK as a place to migrate to.

This was certainly the reasoning of Ecuadorian, Edelmira Pino, 34 years old, who decided to leave her country nine years ago.  She remained in Spain working as manager of a pizzeria until the point where the pressure of her mortgage made her think it perhaps wasn’t productive to stay there.  She then took all her savings and together with her son and her two children moved to the city which is home to Big Ben, where she has been living for two years.  She now works in a hotel, “cleaning and making beds” and maintains that she has several Spanish friends there.

“It’s a new and unusual situation. When I was working in Madrid, I felt the disdain of the Spaniards towards my background and the way I looked.  Here, on the other hand, we’re all just one more”, Edelmira reflects.

She adds “The Spaniards have fallen flat on their faces because of the economic situation which has forced them into doing what the Latin Americans have been doing for years: cleaning. It’s a good lesson in humility.

Juan Carlos Suárez, aged 37 and originally from Bolivia, has been living in England for 14 years.  He is now the section chief of a company which contracts cleaning services, a company which he began to work for when he first arrived in the U.K.

He says that for the last couple of years now he has been receiving a larger quantity of C.Vs from Spaniards.  He claims that they arrive with a “European mentality”, and he explains that “many of them want to find a well paid job that rewards their university qualification right from the start, but they then realise that without a fluent level of English, their aspirations are quickly frustrated.  They must take whatever work comes their way, like the majority of people.

The end of this crisis

The new profile of the typical Spanish immigrant follows a pattern: Youngsters less than 30 years old, with higher education qualifications and coming from middle class families.

Getting accustomed to living away from home, their stories are vary a lot. Many of these youngsters, in fact, set up their life in London simply as an “adventure” for one or two years so that they can learn the language.

They have also set themselves deadlines:  “Until after the Olympic Games”, according to 25 year old architect, Alicia Moya, who after a year and a half away from home today feels fortunate for her position in a market research company, “making calls to Spain and carrying out surveys”. She simply cannot see an end in sight for this crisis and the property industry, her speciality, pointing out that “it is especially serious in Spain.” She will therefore remain in the UK along with many fellow Spaniards working mainly as cleaners or as waiters, they used to do just to gain some extra holiday money. (The Prisma Memoirs)

*Real facts, fictitious names.

(Translated by Rebecca Thompson – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

Share it / Compartir:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *