Expat exodus causes decline in Spanish population

The population of Spain dropped for the second consecutive year in 2013, mostly as a result of expatriates leaving the country in mass.

According to a report from Spain's National Statistics Institute (INE), a large number of the foreign residents returning home were British. In 2013, nearly 90,000 British citizens were no longer registered as residents of Spain, representing a 22.8 percent drop year over year. The decline was from 385,179 to 297,229. Although the British Embassy in Madrid said 800,000 Brits spend part or all of the year in Spain, the INE's figures suggest otherwise. This represents a noticeable change, as the country had been a highly sought-after location for Brits to retire or start a business.

Expats from other countries are also leaving the country in noticeable numbers. German citizens, for example, had a larger decline than British expats, falling 23.6 percent to 138,917 Germans living in Spain. French citizens dropped 12.7 percent, leaving about 100,000 French expats in the country.

The total number of foreign expats in Spain fell 10 percent, a decline of 545,980, bringing the figure down to 5,000,028 in 2013.

Native Spaniards also leaving
While some reports have noted that many Spanish expats are returning home, many more are leaving the country. With the jobless rate at 26 percent and youth unemployment at 55 percent, it is not surprising that many Spanish nationals went to look for work in the U.K., as 51,000 registered with the United Kingdom's national insurance scheme in 2013.

Expats in Spain tend to be unhappy
Whether for employment or other reasons, a study by Dr. David Bartram of Leicester University found that many expats in Spain, Greece and other Mediterranean countries are unhappy with their new surroundings. Bartram found that several factors could contribute to this dissatisfaction, including the economic crisis, dwindling employment opportunities, trouble adjusting to the new surroundings, and the language and culture.

The study – which surveyed 329 expats from Belgium, the U.K., Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands and France – found that respondents who relocated to Spain, Portugal, Greece or Cyprus scored 7.3 out of 10 for happiness on average. Meanwhile, the baseline score, which was created using scores from 56,000 people who stayed in the native countries, was 7.5.

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