Retirement migration to Spain: An introduction

The increasing migration of retired northern Europeans to the coastal regions of the Mediterranean, mainly to Spain, is a remarkable phenomenon within the context of European integration.

Within the last decade, seasonal and temporal movements (to spend autumn and winter in Southern Europe) have been widely replaced by permanent migrations. Different statistical analyses give evidence that the coastal areas of Spain are the most important destination, followed by the French Riviera, Portuguese Algarve and Italian Tuscany.

More than 750,000 welfare residents, coming principally from the EU-15-member states, are currently registered at the coastal municipalities throughout Spain, and more than two thirds of them are in age of retirement.

Given the fact that many of these ‘European residents’, as they name themselves, belong to the economic elite and were successful professionals, they count on powerful tools, know-how and resources to integrate themselves and exercise leadership in a variety of areas within local politics, ranging from the formal representation in local parliaments to all kinds of informal participation settings, especially in areas or topics related to urban and regional planning.

Senior migration and political involvement of foreign residents is a matter of discussion and an important aspect of the practical and daily experience of the European Union. EURO_CITI does not only aim at contributing to the theoretical debate, but also foresee a transfer of the obtained knowledge to the practical field of public policies at different geographical scales. As Spain is at the vanguard on political involvement of foreign senior residents, knowledge transfer may include the successful extrapolation of research results to other EU regions.

Key Literature (selection of thematic literature)

Casado, M. A.; Kaiser, C.; Warnes, T. (2004): Northern European retired residents in nine southern European areas: characteristics, motivations and adjustment. In: Ageing and Society, 24(3): 353-381.

Huber, A.; O’Reilly, K. (2004): The construction of Heimat under conditions of individualised modernity: Swiss and British elderly migrants in Spain. In: Ageing and Society 24: 327–351. King, R.; Warnes, A.; Williams, A. M. (1998): International retirement migration in Europe. In: International Journal of Population Geography, 4(2): 91-111.

O'Reilly, K. (2000): The British on the Costa del Sol. Trans-national identities and local communities. London: Routledge.

Oliver, C. (2008): Retirement migration. Paradoxes of ageing. London, New York: Routledge.

Rodríguez, V.; Fernández-Mayoralas, G.; Rojo, F. (1998): European retirees on the Costa del Sol: a cross-national comparison. International Journal of Population Geography, 4(2): 183-200.

Rodríguez, V.; Casado, M. A.; Huber. A. (2005): La migración de europeos retirados en España. Madrid: CSIC.

Warnes, T. (Ed., 2004): Older migrants in Europe. Essays, projects, sources. Sheffield, SISA, 119 p.

European Union Marie Curie Actions Seventh Framework Programme CCHS Centro de Ciencias
Humanas y Sociales CSIC Centro Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas


Contact and further information: Dr. Michael Janoschka

Centre of Human and Social Sciences
CSIC – Spanish Council for Scientific Research
Tel.: +34 91 602 2310
E-Mail: michael.janoschka [at]