Madrid: more than one million foreignersIE Focus | By Rafael Puyol, President IE University

The crisis has affected every level of society, but particularly immigrants. Madrid’s immigrants are faring better than most, however, evidencing that the capital is still an attractive destination for the immigrant population.
The report on the foreign population registered on the Comunidad de Madrid census on 1 January 2009 is very recent and is one of the first documents to show the impact of the crisis on immigration.

Every intuitive guess and forecast for the situation of the foreign population is confirmed in the report, but it applies in Madrid less severely than in other parts of Spain.

The base figures for the analysis are very clear. The first is the slowing-down of growth and, to a certain extent, the absolute reduction of immigrants if the count includes only the last few months. But it is a quasi-symbolic reversal as there are only 159 immigrants less than last October. It is true that the number has fallen and that some have gone, which means that the year-on-year growth is down on other periods. However, consideration must be given to the fact that many foreigners are no longer considered as such because they have been awarded Spanish nationality. Madrid is also unique in this respect, since it accounts for one third of Spain’s nationalisation processes.The second figure suggests that Madrid appears to be more resistant to the crisis than other regions, at least as far as foreign employment is concerned. Its unemployment figures are lower, albeit still high, and there is a clear slide of many immigrants towards the submerged economy, which in a large city like the capital offers a great many opportunities.

Otherwise, the report portrays a familiar scenario. The immigrant population is almost one million people, which represents 17% of inhabitants. The old Madrid condition of breakwater is now more international, leaving room for an ethnic salad bowl that is essentially Latin American, with European (Romanian) and North African (Moroccan) ingredients and an oriental dressing (Chinese).

Madrid is almost synonymous with immigration, which has become a basic part of its population and prosperity, and it has a great capacity for welcoming people who want to stay. I don’t know how many foreigners will leave because of the crisis, but have no doubt that most will try not to leave.