Spain Needs 100,000 Skilled Immigrants per Year

Shortage of 25,000 engineers

Despite a slowing economy, Spain needs 100,000 qualified foreign workers per year until 2012 due to a shortage of IT, health and other professionals, according to Etnia Comunicacion's report published on Oct. 22

In total the country will need between 250,000 and 300,000 immigrants per year -- half the amount which has arrived annually in recent years -- if low-skilled workers are included, according to the study. "The shortage of highly qualified professionals in the technology sector, especially in the Internet area, as well as health professionals, engineers and consultants is starting to become urgent," it said.

Spain's low birth rate and aging population were cited by the report, which was based on data provided by the European Central Bank, the United Nations and the OECD, as reasons for the continued need for immigration. There is currently a shortage of 25,000 engineers alone, mostly in the telecommunications sector, according to industry groups.

Spain has suffered an abrupt downturn in its economy since the property sector collapsed last year amid rising interest rates, oversupply and tougher lending conditions. The number of unemployed has grown 30% in the past 12 months, with the construction sector, which employs a large number of immigrants, hardest hit. The unemployment rate was 9.3% for Spaniards and 16.5% for immigrants in the second quarter.

The government last month passed a law that rewards immigrants who volunteer to return to their country of origin, on the condition they do not return to Spain for three years.The number of immigrants in the country has rocketed from 500,000 in 1996 to 5.2 million currently, including 2.2 million from outside the EU, out of a total population of 46 million. Spain recruited 200,000 immigrants in their countries of origin last year, compared to 180,000 in 2006. Between January and July the country hired 88,180 workers abroad.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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