Southern Europeans flee to London to find work

File d'attente.

File d'attente.

Britain, and especially London, has become a popular place for tens of thousands of southern Europeans in search of work as the governments of Spain, Portugal and Italy continue to impose austerity measures.

5,350 Spaniards and 5,370 Italians were allocated national insurance numbers in London in the first quarter of 2012, according to The Times newspaper.

The number of national insurance registrations for Spaniards across Britain has soared by 25% year on year. The unemployment rate is more than 25% in Spain.

London was one of only three regions in Britain to see an increase in unemployment in the previous quarter. This is despite the biggest fall in unemployment for over a decade across the country, according to the Evening Standard.

However, London saw an extra 5,000 people join the ranks of unemployed in the period.

Meanwhile, Spain's jobless total has seen its biggest December decline since records began, official data showed on Thursday (3 January), as the services sector stepped up hiring in the run-up to Christmas.

The number of people registered as unemployed in Spain fell by 1.2% in December to 4.9 million – the first decline since July 2012, the country’s labour ministry said.

Spain's labour minister Engracia Hidalgo highlighted a slowdown in the rate of job cuts. The jobless queue had grown by 233,000 people in the second half of 2012 compared with 300,000 a year earlier.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government predicts that the unemployment rate in Spain will fall to 23.3% in 2013.

New path for Spanish entrepreneurs, and Chinese

The economic crisis in Spain has also sparked new forms of innovation and a range of social approaches to business, with a big success for the co-operative sector.

Spain's Employment Ministry expects that 223 businesses of this type will be created between January and March 2013.

The success stories include Mondragón, once a humble co-operative that produced paraffin stoves, which is now the sixth biggest business in the country.

They also include new housing co-operatives, which turn away from the speculative model blamed for sinking Spain's economy, and instead put future homeowners like elderly people in the driving seat to co-design and co-invest in their future homes.

Spain’s 170,000 Chinese immigrants have also managed not only to weather a tough economy, but to thrive in it, the New York Times reported.

Spain’s Chinese immigrants in Madrid and Barcelona are starting businesses and buying distressed properties after the bursting of Spain’s housing bubble.

In the past 10 months, 30% of the 8,613 foreigners who started businesses were Chinese, according to the National Federation of Self-Employed Workers.

The Spanish government has recognised the importance of foreign investors by passing a law in November offering residency permits to foreigners who buy homes worth more than €160,000, with the specific aim of drawing Chinese and Russian investment, lawmakers said.

The types of work many Chinese immigrants have created in Spain have been ubiquitous low-margin bazaars, hairdressers and cost-conscious supermarkets.


Between 2008 and mid-2012, the EU-27 unemployment rate climbed from around 7% to 10.4%, or 25 million unemployed, and in the euro area this is 11.2%, or nearly 18 million people, according to official data.

More than one out of every five youngsters seeking a job cannot find one, with youth unemployment now becoming a top priority for the EU and its member countries.

>> Read: EU promotes 'youth guarantee' scheme for the unemployed

Employment has also become more precarious: nearly 94 % of jobs created in the 15-64 age group in 2011 were part-time; and 42.5 % of young employees are on temporary contracts, EU data shows.

Long-term unemployment has risen to over 10 million people in 2011, and the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU has risen to 116 million.

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