The economic crisis that broke out in 2008 will result in a net outflow of people from Spain seeking work, the first time since figures have been kept that such an situation has occurred.
In 2011, forecasts are for 450,000 people to come to Spain - with 351,588 of that predicted number having already arrived by September - compared with 580,850 who will leave the country (407,214 by September) seeking better economic opportunities, thus creating a net emigration of 130,850 people.
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"In analysing these figures we all have in mind the economic situation," National Statistics Institute, or INE, deputy director Sixto Muriel told EFE, adding that there will be a net outflow of people from Spain at least until 2020, the last year for which official projections have been made.
Since 2008, the deterioration of the Spanish economy and labour market has been unstoppable, with the unemployment rate rising to 21.52 per cent and - expectations are - the peak has not yet come.
The figures are clear and the million or so foreigners who in 2007 came to Spain seeking work have dwindled to less than half that figure over the past three years.
Muriel, however, recalled that it was in 2008 and 2009 that the arrival of immigrants fell by more than 50 per cent to stabilize at about 450,000 annual arrivals, a figure that has been maintained since then.
On the other hand, what has been happening in recent years is "a strong increase" in the number of people leaving the country, Muriel said, noting that this year 500,000 people will leave Spain, of whom more than 50,000 will be Spaniards, a figure quite a bit higher than the 34,000 Spaniards who left the country in 2008.
Currently, foreigners represent 10.28 per cent of the total people registered with Spain's Social Security service, where the gross tally is a little over 17,360,000.
By country, of the total number of foreigners in Spain, the largest group is from Romania with 287,225, followed by Morocco with 206,860, Ecuador with 135,126, Colombia with 97,178, China with 86,653 and Bolivia with 82,843.
Currently, according to figures compiled by the Permanent Immigration Observatory, there are 5.14 million "legal" immigrants in the country having either a registration certificate or a valid residence card.
Of those, 2.47 million come from European Union countries and from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and the rest from other nations such as Morocco, Ecuador, Colombia, China, Bolivia and Peru.
Given the lack of job opportunities and the decision to return to their countries, in 2009 the Spanish government presented three types of voluntary return plans of which more than 30,000 people availed themselves.