Of the approximately 500 million people living today in EU countries, some 55 million belong to families headed by a person born in a country other than the one they live in.2 Of this population of foreign origin, 94% live in one of the countries of the EU-15 and 74% live in one of the major host countries: the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Most of these people were born in countries outside the EU, though there are also consolidated migratory flows within the territory of the EU. In addition, Austria, Belgium, Ireland and Sweden are countries with high percentages of people of foreign origin, accounting for around 20% of their populations.
The poverty risk rate among immigrants residing in Spain stands at 46% and is clearly higher than that of the same group in the EU-28 as a whole. In fact, only in Spain and Greece is this figure over 40%. In comparison with the native-born population, however, Spain is not the country with the highest values, as the contrast between immigrants and locals is even greater in countries such as Sweden, Austria and Belgium, where the risk of being poor is three times higher in the case of families of foreign origin. Of the leading immigration countries, the disparity between immigrants and the native-born population’s quality of life is much greater in France, Italy and Spain than in Germany and the United Kingdom, both of which are countries that have a greater proportion of highly skilled immigrants from developed countries.
Employment is a basic need for all families and especially for immigrants, whose migration is very often associated with the search for job opportunities. Even though across the whole of the EU-28, fewer than 5% of the immigrant population live in households in which every person who could potentially work is unemployed, this percentage is close to 10% in a few countries, among them Greece, Sweden, Spain and Finland. Sweden and Netherlands are, moreover, countries with the greatest disparity between immigrants and the native-born population in this indicator. In contrast, in Spain the difference according to place of birth is not that high: for people born in Spain, the likelihood of living in a household where every potentially working member is unemployed is also higher than the European average.
Something similar occurs in relation to dropping out of school early, a comparatively very high indicator in Spain, both among the native-born population and especially among young immigrants (although in this latter case it is impossible to determine Spain’s position in the European ranking due to a lack of reliable data for ten of the 28 countries). Of the countries for which data are available, the widest gap is observed in Austria, Greece and Cyprus: in these three countries, the number of young people of foreign origin who abandon their studies is three times or more that of people of native origin in a similar situation.
In-work poverty is another area in which Spain occupies an unfavourable position in the European context, and the situation of immigrants is comparatively worse than that of the native-born population, at almost double the European average. Spain is the fourth highest in the whole of Europe as regards the relative gap in this aspect between immigrants and the native-born population, behind Belgium, Sweden and Denmark and at the same level as Italy. This precariousness reduces the opportunities for economic and social advancement for children raised in immigrant families (almost one in five at the present time).
As well as employment, decent income and access to basic public services such as health and education, the immigrant population needs accessible homes where they can settle in their host country. Families of foreign origin living in Spain are faced with a particularly difficult situation in this respect: only Greece has higher excessive housing costs indicators. Of the five indicators chosen for international analysis, this is also the one in which there is the greatest gap between immigrants and the native-born population in Spain: in fact, the score obtained for native-born families is better than the European average.
A COUNTRY NOT SO OPPOSED TO IMMIGRATION
Despite the harsh economic crisis that Spain went through, it remains a country quite open to immigration. The last special Eurobarometer on the issue of migration, carried out in 2017, shows that negative attitudes towards immigrants are more likely to be disapproved of in our country than in others around us, with the exception of the idea that foreigners take jobs away from Spaniards. It is notable that only one in four Spaniards thinks that immigration is a problem, as opposed to four in every ten Europeans. Moreover, seven out of every ten Spaniards hold the view that the integration of immigrants is satisfactory overall, a percentage exceeded only in Ireland and Portugal. The Eurobarometer also shows that Spain is one of the countries where more people state that they have friends or acquaintances of foreign origin, an aspect that reveals the degree to which immigration as a phenomenon has come to be normalised in a relative brief timespan.
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