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Undocumented Workers in Spain and the Politics of Regularization

Center for Migrations and Citizenship - May 2012

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By the end of 2004, low migration flow regulation contributed to a high rate of irregularity and hampered adaptation of foreign labor supplies to the demands of the Spanish labor market, contributing therewith to an increase in irregular workers. The remarkable change came with the change of government in March 2004 and with the approval of the Royal Decree 2393/2004 which established a complex system for managing immigration and was accompanied by the sixth and final regularization process, driven by government, business, and employer organizations in the framework of the Social Dialogue.

In this paper, Inara Stürckow analyses immigration in Spain, paying special attention to illegal immigration, a structural feature of the Spanish immigration regime, and to the extraordinary regularization processes that are key tools for immigration management. First, the author provides a brief chronological reconstruction of Spanish immigration history and the evolution of the legal framework to the present day. Based on this, she analyses irregularity and regularization, highlighting the normalization of 2005, the most important regularization process, and the role of business and employer organizations in it. Furthermore, this article addresses how the last five years have had an impact on (illegal) immigration and contributed to a revision of the Spanish immigration model.

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