A frontier worker, or “transfronterizo” in Spanish, is an individual person that lives in one country but works in another. Such is the case with Gibraltar where the local population is 30,000 inhabitants plus some 15,000 or more workers that are the frontier workers. Out of this last group, it is estimated that about 10,000 are Spaniards and the rest is a good mix of European and non-European nationals who have chosen Gibraltar as their place to make a living.
As far as property and accommodation is concerned, the question is; where do these people actually live? Do they live just across the border in La Línea de La Concepción? Do they live further away east and west of Gibraltar? Or do they actually live in Gibraltar during their working week and go back to Spain for weekends? The answer is that there is a mixed array of options to suit their particular needs and possibly, to tick all relevant boxes with regards to convenience and cost effectiveness. Let’s try to analyse and opt for the best choice in Gibraltar and outside, trying to work out pros and cons with all their consequences. Something crucial to bear mind in our analysis is that Brexit will probably play a major role in the frontier workers’ decisions in the next three years.
At the moment, the fact of the matter is that nobody really knows what the final and true outcome is going to be so for the time being, things will have to the played by ear, or given the time frame we are given, we should better say, play it by year.
It is widely known at this point in time that since Theresa May triggered article 50 of The Treaty of Lisbon, the UK has given official notice that it is finally and definitely leaving the European Union. In addition, Prime Minister, after careful consideration, has recently called for a new general election this coming month of June 2017. Whether this fact will change the Brexit path is not easy to say. Anything is possible but things are unlikely to change.
Furthermore, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo more than understandably announced in a recent statement that given the present situation with the EU, Gibraltar may as well leave the EU together with Mainland UK.
To add more spice to the issue, will the French general elections together with elections in other European countries, like Italy or Sweden, affect in any way the final outcome of all this?
With all these facts in mind what are the different options –as far as property is concerned- for a frontier worker?
Option one is to live across the border in Spain and go into Gibraltar each day to work. This is the most common case and perhaps, an ideal option. The property market in La Linea and further along the coast east or west in close-by towns benefits from this. And for the frontier worker, this option is, or could be very cost effective as the cost of a square metre on the Spanish side is considerably cheaper and at times, it could be half or less of its equivalent in Gibraltar as far as buying property is concerned.
Option two would be renting. If we take the rental option, there is little choice in Gibraltar for less than £800 per calendar month for a one bedroom flat or a studio apartment. That would be a minimum figure. And if one desires a chic, modern, well-furnished property of the same size, we are talking over £1,000 per month. Like anywhere else, the prettier and better decorated and located, the more one is expected to pay. Its equivalent on the other side (prime Gibraltar property cannot really be compared unless we consider Sotogrande and similar areas) is less expensive and sometimes, in a few cases, half the price – with the advantages and disadvantages that go with it.
So, with all this in mind, why would a frontier worker want to live in Gibraltar? Very simple. Out of mere comfort and convenience. Plus the important advantages of being a Gibraltar resident. A good education system in English, top class NHS, free public transport… Most of these things are also available in Spain but maybe to a lesser extent. But it is the convenience and comfort of living in Gibraltar without the need to cross the border each day that is to be considered reason one, above all the rest. And that is precisely what I would advise my clients to do if they can afford the extra cost: a small flat in Gibraltar, very modern and well-decorated, near all amenities to be used during the week, with walking or cycling everywhere, including the international airport with several flights each day to the UK. In an ideal world, a weekend place in Spain would also be a tremendous contribution to happiness and leading a good life.