Foreign residents in the Costa Blanca

A recent population survey has found that foreigners account for the majority of residents in 19 municipalities in the province of Alicante. In three towns – San Fulgencio, Rojales and Benitatxell, foreigners account for nearly 80% of the population.

These figures place Alicante third in the list of Spanish provinces in terms of the number of foreign residents that live there (Madrid is first followed closely by Barcelona). According to the latest figures compiled by the National Institute of Statistics out of a total of 1,921,988 inhabitants in the province of Alicante on 1st January 2010 463,704 were foreign (24.2%).

Over 100 nationalities are represented in the total number of foreign residents living in the province of Alicante and out of these nationalities the highest number come from the United Kingdom – over a quarter of those officially registered as residents in the province are British – followed by Germans.

The majority of British and German residents are over retirement age and according to Raquel Huete in her book ‘Tourists who Decide to Stay’ these residents have taken the decision to move to Spain when they reach retirement age after visiting Spain on holiday and are attracted to the Costa Blanca in particular because of its climate, the quality of life, the landscape and the cost of living.

Nevertheless, the number of foreign residents arriving in the province has dropped off because of the recession. Another motive which attracts foreigners to come to Spain is the search for work, although the number of foreigners coming for this reason has declined as unemployment has risen in Spain. The 16,606 foreigners who have come to live in the province of Alicante over the last year is much lower than in 2007-2008 when 53,461 foreigners came to Alicante to live.

The most significant increase in the number of foreign residents in the province has been in the number of non EU foreign residents with long stay permits.

However, the total number of workers affiliated to Spain’s social security system has decreased as a result of the recession. The sectors with the highest number of foreign workers continue to be the hotel and catering trade, the retail sector and the construction sector.

Raquel Huete explains in her book that EU residents who come to Spain to live take up their rights to free healthcare and other public services. However this ends up being a burden for the local authorities given that these residents often pay their taxes in their home countries where they receive their pensions.

She also says that another important issue related to foreigners living in the province of Alicante is their political representation and their right to vote given that the high numbers of these residents can decide the outcome of local elections.

She points out that their interests are often different to those of Spaniards who are more interested in services such as education and recreation facilities whereas retired foreign residents are more interested in issues such as security, town planning and the lighting of streets.