"In the continent's younger economies, notably Spain and Ireland, the worldwide financial downturn has predominantly been a crisis of the building industry. In Spain, a quarter of all working-age adults last year were employed in the booming construction sector.
The boom quickly ended: This summer, home sales in Spain were down 30 per cent over last year and new mortgages down almost 40 per cent -- and that was before credit markets collapsed. The downturn has left more than 2.6 million people out of work in this country of 45 million, with unemployment at 11.3 per cent, the highest in the 27 European Union countries.
And more than half of those workers were immigrants, hired from Romania, Morocco and especially from Latin America during the past 10 years by construction firms. [Prime Minister] Zapatero has spent the past four years making these immigrants, who now comprise one-tenth of Spain's population, feel at home.
This month, he began to offer another option: He would pay them a year's benefits, in cash, if they went back home for at least three years. Forty per cent would be payable in advance, the rest upon arrival. When they returned to Spain, they would get their old immigration status back."