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Spain - Expats

It is estimated that the number of expats living in Spain has increased so much over the last 10 years that they now number around 12% of the population – the equivalent of 5.6 million people. Between 2008 and 2010 more than 400,000 non-Spaniards moved to the country and the total population has risen by almost 7 million since 2000. At that time there were less than a million people of non-Spanish origin registered as living in Spain. At the beginning of the 1990s the emigrant population was less than 1%.

Expats are coming from all over the EU as well as northern Africa, South America and the US. Around 350,000 of the expats are from the UK, while just over 900,000 are from Africa. 1.6 million people from South America have chosen to make their home in Spain. Spain is also becoming attractive now to those from Eastern European countries which have recently joined the EU, such as Romania.

Expats are not simply moving to Spain to retire. When Spain first became a popular expat destination this was the main reason for going there, but many people are choosing to move there at a younger age and work. It is estimated that around half of all jobs which became available between he years of 2000 and 2008 were taken by expat workers. Many people have been attracted by the number of jobs which have been created, especially in tourist areas such as the Costa del Sol. Construction workers were attracted by the boom in development and increased healthcare facilities have offered opportunities for qualified medical staff.

It has been estimated that the number of expats residing in Spain will continue to grow and figures such as 20% of the population by the year 2025 have been mentioned. However, there are high levels of unemployment currently in Spain and this could put people off in the near future. Unemployment currently (July 2011) stands at around 20% although it is thought that a proportion of people claiming benefits are also working for cash in hand, so this figure may not be strictly accurate.

Spain is generally a very welcoming country, partly due to the diversity of cultures already there. The proximity of North Africa means that immigrants have been coming from there for many years and the Spanish empire spread the language across the world, so for some expats there is no language barrier. Many people are drawn to Spain because it is a modern country and has everything needed for a good quality of life. Infrastructures such as social security, healthcare and transport are considered to be very good when compared with some other countries.

Life in Spain is very relaxed and there is an emphasis on outdoors life which people find attractive. The excellent climate is ideal for those who are coming from northern Europe in search of warmer climes and many people retire to Spain for this reason alone. The cost of living is relatively low when compared to other parts of Europe and in many areas house prices are far below those of similar properties in the UK and the US.

Another reason that many people choose to move to Spain is to begin their own business. In tourist areas such as the Costa del Sol or the Costa Blanca there are opportunities for running bars, restaurants, guest houses or even nightclubs. In contrast, rural areas of Spain are attracting more and more expats who want to go there for a quieter life and to experience the traditional Spanish lifestyle. Spain is also attractive to those who are from other parts of Europe as it is relatively easy to get to. The advent of budget airlines means that travelling to and from Spain is now quick and cheap and it can feel as though you are not moving too far away.

The majority of expats are choosing to make their homes in the cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao, or in tourist areas such as Malaga and Benidorm. There are opportunities for expats in these areas with various work opportunities and plenty of housing available. Rural areas tend to have fewer opportunities but are attractive to those who wish to retire.

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Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.