Spain has experienced very substantial population movements since the 1950s, both internal and external. By far the most important were those of the 1950s and 1960s involving the transfer of at least four million people from a rural or backward milieu to the developing cities. By the mid-1980s a quarter of all Spaniards lived in a province other than the one in which they were born; additionally there was a population shift from villages and towns to the capital of the same province, which in many cases (e.g. Málaga, Seville) absorbed tens of thousands from other parts of their own provinces. During the years of rapid development in the 1960s the provinces with the highest number of immigrants were Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Vizcaya; and those with the highest number of emigrants were provinces in the regions of Extremadura, the two Castiles (excluding Madrid), Andalusia and Galicia. At a time when the population of Spain grew by 10 percent, 23 of the 50 Spanish provinces lost population. This led to the abandonment of entire villages and the depopulation of large areas of the interior. This mass migratory movement only came to an end following the onset of the long recession from 1975 to 1984, although even during this period of reduced economic activity there were 20 provinces which lost inhabitants, in part no doubt because of the ageing structure of their populations. Among the provinces with the highest absolute losses were Badajoz and Cáceres in Extremadura, Ciudad Real and Cuenca in Castile-La Mancha, León and Zamora in Castile-León, Jaén and Córdoba in Andalusia, and Teruel in Aragon. The one characteristic these provinces have in common is that they are all in the interior rather than on the littoral. In Galicia, for example, the two seabord provinces Pontevedra and La Coruña experienced net immigration, whereas the two interior provinces Lugo and Orense had net emigration. In the 1980s migratory movements were less marked and in some cases reversed. A comparison of the 1981 and 1991 population censuses reveals that the regions with the highest net gains of population in relative terms were the Canaries (19.7 percent), the Balearics (13.7), Andalusia (9.3), Comunidad Valenciana (7.6), Madrid (7.3) and Murcia (7.3). The highest net losers were Galicia (-3.3), Asturias (-2.7) and the Basque country (-1.5). Given that the natural population growth between the two censuses was 3.1 percent, these changes can be ascribed in substantial measure to migratory movements. In absolute rather than relative terms, the regions with the highest net increases were Andalusia (c. 600,000) and Madrid (c. 344,000). Latest figures, however, suggest that densely populated provinces (Barcelona, Madrid, Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa) are now experiencing low level emigration: in 1993 Barcelona had a net migratory loss of 12,240 and Madrid of 6,362. But Valencia, another province with a relatively high density, has not so far shown the same tendency.
   External migration, though not as pronounced as internal, was important in the 1960s. Emigration was probably given a boost by the sharp deflationary shock of the 1959 Stabilization Plan and was able to benefit from a general European prosperity. This wave of emigration perhaps goes some way towards explaining the low unemployment in the Spain of the 1960s. 1,310,424 Spaniards (of whom a majority were Galicians and Andalusians) are recorded as having left their country to go and work abroad, mostly in other countries of western Europe (especially France, Germany and Switzerland). However, what is frequently forgotten is that most of these emigrants returned after just a few years, so that in the four years 1965–8 return migration exceeded out-migration by some 233,000. For the period 1960–73 as a whole, net emigration (ie. emigrants minus returnees) was just 151,500, a figure far from the "millions" often cited in uninformed accounts. The years 1974–80 saw a marked reduction in emigrants owing to the world economic recession induced by the first oil shock of 1973, and during this period returnees exceeded leavers by 291,500. In something over twenty years the external migratory activity had balanced out. The early 1980s saw modest net balances in favour of emigration, but the late 1980s again established a trend in the opposite direction, with arrivals exceeding leavers. It is thus perfectly clear that the vast majority of Spaniards who emigrate do so on a temporary basis only. The 1990s have confirmed the trend that Spain is now a country of net immigration. Some of the immigrants are Spaniards returning home to retire after working abroad, some are foreigners seeking a milder climate for the same reason, and an unknown number are illegal arrivals from the poorer countries of North Africa and Latin America. Spain is no longer an exporter of labour: despite high unemployment, Spaniards are choosing to stay at home.
   Further reading
   - Fundación FOESSA (1994) V Informe sociológico sobra la situación social de España, Madrid (vol. 1, chapter 2.2 is devoted to "Movimientos migratorios en España" (Migratory Movements in Spain) and contains much information, especially for the 1980s).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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