Spain, Italy and Japan are the countries most likely to be affected by a drastic population drop in the next 80 years, on a list which includes 23 nations published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet.
Researchers at Washington University have found that falling fertility rates in almost every country on the planet could lead to shrinking populations by the end of the century.
But in the case of Spain, the evidence suggests there could be half as many Spaniards by 2100: 23.5 million.
According to the study, the fertility rate – the average number of children a woman gives birth to – can result in a population drop if it falls below 2.1.
In 2019, Spain’s fertility rate was 1.31 children per woman, the second lowest rate in Europe only ahead of Malta (1.26) and behind the EU average of 1.57.
Rather than it relating to actual health problems – as the term fertility rate could lead to believe – the decision for women across the world to have fewer children is being influenced by their increased access to education and work and higher use of contraception, the study found.
In Spain’s case, women delay having their first child more than anywhere else in the EU, to the average age of 30.9 years, according to a 2017 study.
The country’s financial crisis also had a major impact on Spanish couples’ confidence when bringing a child into the world, with unemployment and economic uncertainty being linked to annual fertility rate drop of 0.4 from 2009 to 2013.
Spain's currently evolving coronavirus crisis is likely to have a similar impact.
The Washing University study also indicates that countries will age dramatically over the next century and that the year 2064 will be when the planet’s population reaches a peak of 9.7 billion before dropping to 8.8 billion by 2100.
Spain was famously forecast in 2018 to become the country with the highest life expectancy in the world by 2040, news which was largely celebrated, but this also highlights the need for drastic reforms to the country’s pensions and social security system.
The newest data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute suggests that the Iberian nation has never been older on average. For every 125 Spaniards over the age of 64, there are 100 under the age of 16.
The fact that Spain's resident population actually grew by almost 400,000 in 2019 to reach a milestone 47 million is due to an increase in immigration, which leads to question of whether accepting more foreigners has already become a necessity rather than a choice for the country.