“The recession has led to the biggest migration in Spain’s history,” Banco de España said in a recent report titled ‘Spain: from immigration to emigration?’.
The banking institution pointed out that the trend began in 2007 “when Spain’s GDP started spiralling” and since 2010 the annual brain drain has been of around 400,000 people annually.
They’re blaming the so called ‘efecto red’ (network effect) for the mass exodus, in reference to the growing number of support and information websites allowing Spanish jobseekers to seek better fortune overseas.
Online comments and conversations with Spanish expats working abroad are instigating many more qualified but unemployed Spaniards to take the leap of faith.
To give an example, up to 2000 Spaniards are now living in the remote South African town of Upington, in the middle of the Kalahari desert.
There’s plenty of work available in the solar panel industry there, but the decision of moving their families half way across the world to a place with such a hostile climate and a completely different culture is largely based on the reassurance from the expats already living in Upington.
According to The Bank of Spain, Spanish work migrants “are younger and more educated than those who stay”.
“A dramatic increase in Spain’s brain drain could exacerbate the effects of the crisis,” the document states.
In 2013, Spain's Employment Minister Fátima Báñez talked down the idea of a brain drain in Spain, saying young people were simply exercising "external mobility".
But US-based Spanish astrophysicist Amaya Moro-Martín responded with an open letter to Spain's government in which she argued the country's brain drain was no empty cliché.
"Please let the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology know that the science I do will no longer be Spanish, nor thanks to Spain; rather I will keep doing science in spite of Spain," she said.
Spain’s King Felipe shared Martín’s concerns in November of last year, calling on the government to prevent the country from suffering a “lost generation” of scientists.