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Childless households are the new normal in Spain
More and more Spanish households are comprised of flatmates rather than families. Screen grab: YouTube

Childless households are the new normal in Spain

Jessica Jones · 22 Jul 2016, 11:26

Published: 22 Jul 2016 11:26 GMT+02:00

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Spain’s demographics are changing dramatically. At the end of the 20th century, most homes comprised of a couple and their children. Now, half of homes are made up of single people and childless couples, according to new figures.

The number of childless couples tripled between 1977 and 2015; from from 1.5 million to 4.4 million according to the latest issue of Panorama Social, a report released by Funcas, an association that funds studies into social and economic issues in Spain.

The number of single person homes has increased five-fold since 1977: from 700,000 to 3.8 million; 22 percent of homes compared to eight percent in 1977.

The figures show the huge demographic changes that have occurred in Spain in the last 40 years.

“In Spain today, four in ten homes are comprised of a couple with children; a quarter are comprised of a couple without children and a quarter are single-person homes. The rest is comprised mainly of single-parent families and homes shared by non-family members,” writes Pau Miret in the issue, entitled “Demographic Challenges”.

There are several reasons why Spain’s demographics are changing.


One pointed out in the report is the increased emigration since the beginning of the economic crisis. The highest levels of emigration have been from Madrid, Catalonia and Valencia. Hundreds of thousands of young Spaniards, at the age when, in the past they might have thought about starting a family, are instead choosing to emigrate abroad in search of work, something difficult to find in Spain where there is 20 percent unemployment.

During 2015, some 100,000 Spaniards emigrated, a rise of 23 percent on the year before, according to provisional figures from Spain's National Statistics Institute (INE).

Low birth rate

In 2014 the birth rate in Spain rose slightly (by 0.1 percent) after five years of plummeting. Since 2008, the number of births in Spain has fallen by 18 percent. Spain had one of the lowest fertility rates in the EU in 2014 at an average of 1.32 children, just above Greece, Cyprus, Portugal.

In fact, more people died in Spain last year than were born for the first time since 1941. The number of deaths (422,276) exceeded births by almost 3,200, according to provisional figures from the INE:

Ageing population

Another important reason is Spain’s aging population. Spaniards have among the highest life expectancy in the world and with fewer births, the demographics are becoming increasingly weighted towards older people.

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In fact, over half of Spanish grandparents recently admitted to helping out their children during the economic crisis, be it financially or by looking after their grandchildren.

The study, carried out by Sigma Dos and released by Messengers of Peace association, showed that 55.9 percent of grandparents in Spain had helped their children during the economic crisis.

Older mothers

Among Europeans, Spaniards leave it the latest to have children. Spanish women, on average, have their first child aged 32 making them the oldest first time mothers in Europe according to a 2014 study by the Institute for Family Policies (IFP).

The IFP blamed the impact of the economic crisis on why many women are having children later in life. 

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

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