UK migrants fuelling Spanish boom

They run film companies, sail catamarans for corporate clients or earn their livings by pulling pints in bars.

They are the Britons who have led the foreign invasion of Spain which has fuelled the country’s extraordinary economic growth during the past decade.

A study published yesterday by Caixa Catalunya, one of the Spanish savings bank, found that without immigrants, Spain’s economy would not have flourished.

In fact, instead of growing at a yearly rate of 2.6 per cent per capita, it would have declined at an annual rate of 0.6 per cent. Foreigners have proved crucial in boosting domestic demand and raising productivity, the report said.

Against that background, another report has shown Britons and other foreigners have played a dynamic role by starting small-businesses at a faster rate than Spaniards. Whether they are running their own bars on the Costa del Sol, teaching English or earning their living in more unusual ways, Britons have set up more companies than any other nationality.

Latest figures showed in 2005, of all the 1.6 million foreigners in Spain, 140,882 ran their own small businesses. The Spanish Business Institute said there was a 15 per cent rise in the number of foreigners opening businesses, compared with a 3 per cent increase in Spanish-run firms.

More than 21,000 Britons have registered their own small business in Spain, followed by 13,579 Germans, and 13,293 Chinese.

Nic Alderton, 34,who runs his own film company, Simplicity Films, from his home in Catalonia, is typical of the "new breed" of foreigners. He came to Spain from London three years ago to start his company, which shoots advertisements and promotional films. "So far, the business is going well. We had started in Britain but wanted to come out here," he said.

John Woodward, 50, whose firm Voyages Orsom provides team-building courses on his catamaran from Barcelona, said : "It has got much easier in recent years in Spain. I employ 15 Spaniards and some have worked for me for years. Perhaps they like a different style of management. Instead of having a boss who smokes a cigar and shouts at you all the time, they say we are easier to work with."

Of a total population of 45 million, immigrants now number nearly two million. The rate of immigration to Spain has been the second highest in Europe, after Italy.

Raquel Váquez, head of analysis at Caixa Catalunya, said : "Immigrants have a direct influence on the increase in consumer spending and demand for housing, the two factors which have resulted in Spain’s GDP growth."

Source : The Independent