A curious trend is being spotted in job market; more and more Spanish people are emigrating to other European countries, especially to Germany. Nevertheless is it not the same kind of emigration which we have seen previously. Nowadays, an emigrant is typically someone with diplomas and advanced language skills. A new definition has been created for this type of job search: a person with education is now called an expat whereas a person without any is still referred to as an emigrant.
In the beginning of this year during an official visit to Spain, Angela Merkel proposed bringing qualified Spanish workers to Germany and at the same time to help Spain reduce its growing unemployment problem (especially among young qualified professionals). Since then, there has been collaboration between the Spanish and German official employment services through the network EURES.
It comes down to supply and demand: Germany needs more than 200.000 qualified professionals, especially in health care, engineering, education, tourism and hospitality. Spain has over 4 million unemployed workers, many of them in construction, architecture and engineering. These areas were seriously affected by the collapse in the Spanish real estate and credit bubbles in 2008. Many of these professionals are young and qualified and with few possibilities of finding jobs in their fields in Spain (the unemployment rate in Spain for young people is 40%).
The typical profile of a Spanish expat is someone between 25 and 30 years old with postgraduate degrees and without family responsibilities. The expat will normally search for a job in France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands or in the Scandinavian countries. They tend to be researchers, doctors, biologists or engineers.
But there’s also another group of people looking for work: Immigrants coming to Spain in search of job opportunities. A typical Spanish immigrant will be a South American or African male, under 30 and with a limited educational background looking for jobs which require little or no education.
These same trends have started ringing alarm bells in business and industry: they are afraid of a brain drain in which the most qualified professionals feel obligated to leave Spain because of the lack of job opportunities. Those who remain are the ones that already in employment or job seekers without sufficient qualification to take on roles with management responsibilities. If the most qualified professionals leave Spain, it could be the beginning of the end of the growth of the Spanish economy which would also harm the immigrants coming to Spain. Experts feel that Spain needs to focus more on attracting qualified professionals rather than workers without education.
Nevertheless, the Spanish government has said that they are not afraid of a brain drain.
But maybe there is cause for alarm: although there is no precise data about how many Spanish workers have left Spain this year, 17.000 Spaniards have expressed an interested in working in Germany through the new bilateral agreement. Meanwhile, the most common problem that the Spanish worker faces is the language barrier. German authorities ask for at least an intermediate level of German (level B1/B2) in order to be able to work there.
The need to learn the language has not gone unnoticed in the Goethe Institute where there has been a 25% jump in enrollment since Angela Merkel’s visit to Spain in February. Many of the new students are young engineers, architects and IT professionals all hoping to join the new wave of Spanish expats who are willing to travel abroad for a brighter professional future.
The question is; how much will the brain drain affect Spain – a country whose economy grew rapidly but which is now facing great uncertainty?