Foreing-Born Workers in the Spanish Labour Market. Do Latin American Immigrants Act as a 'Buffer' for Labour Restructuring in Economic Phases?

Fernando Gil-Alonso , Universitat de Barcelona

The Spanish labour market is particularly sensitive to the economic cycle. Employment grows strongly in economic expansion phases –many of these new jobs, mainly in the construction and service sectors, attracted millions of foreign-born immigrants before 2008 and after 2014– and there are significant job losses during economic crises. Using Spanish Labour Force Survey (EPA) data between 2005 and 2020 -period when the survey follows the same methodology-, this paper aims to analyse the impact of business cycles on foreign-born immigrants’ insertion in the Spanish labour market.This will be measured by economic activity, employment, and unemployment indicators –also comparing them to those of natives. Two opposite hypotheses regarding the relationship between the business cycle and international migration are confrontred: the ‘buffer theory’ and the ‘new migration model’. Descriptive analysis of the economic expansion and crisis periods seems to demonstrate that the way immigrants behave from the labour point of view varies by origin. The ‘buffer theory’ seems to explain better Latin Americans’ behaviour from this perspective: they move more easily in and out of Spain in economic expansion and crisis periods due to the acquisition of Spanish citizenship. However, African, and Asian immigrants, and those from the rest of Europe, seem to respond better to the 'new migratory model': they do not leave Spain in great numbers during crisis periods -the number of Asians even increases-, and try to resist unemployment growth in situ, competing with native workers for existing jobs. Subsequent explanatory analysis will be use to confirm these results.

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 Presented in Session 55. Labour Force Transitions and Life Stages