Sunset Migration



  • nearly 1 million British people live full/part-time in Spain, with 80,000 being retired
  • 1/10 Brits over 55 live abroad
  • 1951, 11% of the population were 65, now 16% and by 2031 it will be >22%
  • 2007, 1.5 million were receiving state pensions at an overseas address
  • 2007, >10% of the Spanish population was foreign
  • Migrants tend to cluster in 'ghettos' for English speakers
  • Retirement migration is spatially significant as it is concentrated in a few provinces (e.g. Alicante on the Costa Blanca and Málaga on the Costa del Sol)
  • This type of migration is on the rise and there are concerns about mass migration
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Push & Pull Factors for UK Migrants to Spain

  • Mediterranean climate (~10C warmer, more sunshine, less rainfall, favourable to retirees' health, reduces heating costs)
  • Communication networks (cheap & frequent flights, ICT, easy to keep in touch, infrastructure to ease move, companies around to offer legal/etc support)
  • Spanish Lifestyle (slower pace of life)
  • Cost of living (still receive state pensions from UK, Spanish tax rates are lower, cost of living is lower (utility bills ~50-60% of UK ones), increased British affluence, strength of pound)
  • Property Market (UK house price boom, houses in UK worth more than Spanish ones, if they sell UK house and buy Spanish house they have lump sum for retirement support)
  • Awareness of destination (holidays, internet, TV,... they know what they're going into)
  • Expatriate community (similar cultural backgrounds = easier integration); Leisure Facilities
  • Living longer (2001 census, more people >60 than <16 in UK due to better diet, knowledge of fitness and better healthcare)
  • Healthcare (if you receive a state pension in the UK you are eligible for free state healthcare in Spain, new private hospitals in Spain)
  • Antipathy to the UK (high cost of living, high taxation, high house prices, fast life pace, high crime rates, 'youth culture', poor weather, declining respect, congestion, low EQ,...)
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Impacts of Migration on the Source Country


  • Loss of a highly experienced workforce, especially if they reitre early
  • The 'grey pound' is spent overseas
  • Family breakup as the grandparents move away
  • Loss of potential childcare


  • Fewer older people to take care of, some health and care problems are effectively exported
  • In part, emigration balances increased immigration, reducing net migration rates
  • Relieves pressure for new homes, and therefore there is less building on Greenfield sites
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Impacts of Migration on the Host Country


  • Some benefit and healthcare costs
  • Emigrant 'ghettos' are created with little social and cultural integration
  • House prices exceed the buying power of local people
  • Large-scale villa development has ruined a lot of coastal landscape and degraded biodiversity
  • Water-supply systems are strained in semi-arid areas
  • Localised pollution has risen, and flood risk rises as urban development occurs
  • Resenment may grow as immigrants seek to enter local politics (e.g. in San Fulgencio on the Costa Blanca, 80% of the population is foreign and British and German expats set up their own political party, stood in local elections, won 21% of the vote and 3 local council seats.


  • Increased spending in the local economy, some retirees are very affluent
  • Job creation in construction, retail, legal and health services, estate agencies etc
  • Areas which were largely unproductive scrubland become valuable land to build on
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Returning home

  • mixed experiences, especially as they become infirm with age
  • miss family, missing important grandchildren events
  • may need health care, range of facilities available is wider in the UK
  • Private health insurance is available, but may be expensive
  • 2008, UK Health Department stopped free NHS care for British ex-patriots visiting the UK
  • Since the 2008 economic downturn, the pound buys fewer euros
  • Some building happens illegally without planning permission, so immigrants are sometimes asked to leave
  • Sales of Spanish properties to foreigners are down by more than 2/3
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