Older and more diverse: What Spain's population will be like in 50 years

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Older and more diverse: What Spain's population will be like in 50 years
People wearing face masks walk through central Zaragoza in 2020. Spain's population will rely on immigration to continue growing. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

New demographic projections suggest big changes to Spanish society in the coming decades, with the country set to rely more heavily on migration to keep the economy running as the birth rate among Spaniards drops and life expectancy rises.


According to new projections released by INE, Spain’s national statistics body, the Spanish population is set to undergo some big demographic changes in the coming years.

Taking a broad stroke view of the statistics, Spanish society is set to get older and made up of more immigrants in the future, with the INE figures predicting that Spain will gain over 4 million (4,236,335) people by 2037, with the population set to reach 51 million. That represents an increase of 8.9 percent.


Population growth is then anticipated to slow slightly, and by 2072, in 50 years' time, the Spanish population is projected to reach 52.9 million, an increase of 5.45 million people from 2022 figures.

The INE numbers have even made population increases by region, with the greatest relative increases expected in the Balearic Islands (25.0 percent), Murcia (16.0 percent) and the Canary Islands (15.5 percent).

On the other hand, the biggest falls in population will likely be seen in Asturias (-6.7 percent), Extremadura (-4.8 percent) and Castilla y León (-4.1 percent).

Increasing immigrant population

The estimated population growth is predicted to be largely due to immigration. If INE models are accurate, this would mean that the Spanish-born population will see a steady decline and fall from 84.5 percent, the proportion of the population currently, to 63.5 percent within 50 years.

To put that statistic in other words, by 2072 36.5 percent of people resident in Spain, a little over one in three, will be born in another country.

This is unsurprising if you consider Spain's net migratory trends of recent years.


According to provisional immigration figures, Spain received 530,401 migrants during 2021, while only 381,724 Spaniards emigrated during that period. It is this net-positive migratory trend, first observed in 2016, which will be the driving force of Spain's population growth and is expected to maintain in the long term.

READ ALSO: Spain’s population hits record 47 million for the first time thanks to immigration

Birth rates

The growing proportion of immigrants in the Spanish population is partly explained by Spain's shortage of newborns.

The birth rate in Spain has been declining for around a century, to the extent that the birth rate in the past year was 7 births for every 1,000 people, and the total number of births reached the lowest number in history in 2021 - with 338,532 babies born. That represents a huge 39 percent drop compared to a decade ago.

Fertility rate figures have also revealed that there were only 1.19 children per woman of childbearing age in Spain in 2022, much lower than the rate needed for the population to remain stable - 2.1 children per woman.

According to the INE, between 2022 and 2036 around 5.5 million children will be born, 14.2 percent less than in the previous 15 years. From 2058, however, births could begin to rise again.


As birth rates fall, deaths in Spain are expected to continue their rise until they peak in 2064. According to INE projections, it is estimated that in 2036 and 2071 there will be 494,371 and 652,920 deaths respectively, compared to 449,270 in 2021.

READ ALSO: Foreign residents in Spain top 6 million for first time

Ageing population 

The Spanish population is also set to get older, with the percentage of the population over 65 years of age predicted to peak in 2050, when almost one in three will be 65 years old or older.

READ ALSO: Spain’s over 65s exceed 20 percent of the population for the first time

At a time when pensions are a big political talking point in Spain, by 2035, in just 15 years, around one in four (26.0 percent) of Spaniards are expected to be 65 or older.

That figure is currently just 20.1 percent of the total population, and by 2050 it could rise to 30.4 percent.

Equally, the working age population is also set to decline. The Spanish population between 20 and 64 years of age, which in 2022 is 60.7 percent of the total, is projected to drop to 53.1 percent in by 2052, with a very slight uptick (back to 54.7 percent) by 2072.


In simple terms, with the population ageing but the proportion of working people falling, the dependent population rate will increase to the point where Spaniards over 16 years of age and over 64 will outgrow the working age population. This trend - worrying for both Spain's employment market and social care sector - is expected to peak around 2050, when three in four (76 .8%) are expected to be dependent, and just one in four between 16-64 years.

This is partly why the proportion of foreign-born residents is expected to rise so much in Spain. As the number of working age Spaniards shrinks, a bigger immigrant workforce will required to fill the gaps.

Life expectancy 

Despite Spain's ageing population, the INE actually forecasts life expectancy to increase. Life expectancy at birth could reach 86.0 years in men and 90.0 in women by 2071, rises of 5.8 and 4.2 years compared to current life expectancy figures.


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