There seem to be mixed messages surrounding just how many of the British have left Spain and when. The number declared as being registered on the padrón in the Alicante province is down by 90,000 compared to 2012.
Most expats in Spain know of at least a few people who have taken the decision to return to the UK. Even so, 90,000 is quite a high figure and deserves further investigation.
Perhaps we should look at the profile of the average British person in Spain to unpick the headlines. Many of those who are here came as they retired during the boom years, 10 to 15 years ago. Since then, age and circumstance has taken its toll. Losing a partner, increasing health problems alongside concerns about SIP cards and health care eligibility will have prompted the return of some.
As pensioners have returned to the UK so the service industries based around them have dwindled. Spending power has been reduced as the British pension has suffered from a stronger Euro. Those remaining have less to spend and the shops, restaurants and bars they visit have found it more difficult to survive too.
Other factors responsible
As with most statistics, this should not be read at face value. There are other factors that could be influencing this apparent landslide in the number of British in Spain.
Murcia Today speculates on other reasons. They point out that changes to the padrón have resulted in some of those whose who did not cancel their registration when they left Spain previously, being removed now. Some have perhaps taken the decision to de-register due to increasing restrictions around foreigners such as the 720 asset declaration form.
Spain has successfully scared many people with the threat of exorbitant fines and a big brother tax service. Those intimidated have perhaps chosen to leave instead or change the balance of their Spain/ Britain co-residency.
It’s still a dream for some
The current statistics may look a little bleak at the moment, but we could be seeing an upturn soon. Changes to pensions in the UK and the opportunity for those retiring to free up chunks to spend now rather than later, could see a return to property buying in Spain. This combined with low cost housing might herald a healthier horizon, if not a return to the buying frenzy of the early part of the century.
It could be argued that some of those people coming to Spain in the peak times had not always thought through their decision sufficiently carefully. They perhaps found themselves swept away with the idea and less than impressed with the practicalities of life in another country.
Some of the businesses that shot up to support the new population of expats were not always the most reputable. Setting up a bar/ builders/ food emporium in Spain was seen by some as a quick money-making enterprise. Many of these people, have now packed up their menu board and left their pitch to those better qualified and experienced to hold it.
It might be harsh, but a little trimming of the local expat population will not do those here, who came for the right reasons, any harm. Let’s hope that those who join us in the next few years, represent a different breed of savvy expat who know a little more about what they’re letting themselves in for and thrive on it.